REVIEW: “DOCTOR SLEEP” (2019) Warner Bros.

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In “DOCTOR SLEEP” little Danny Torrance is now a grown up Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), and is still understandably haunted by the things that happened to him at the Overlook Hotel as a small child. Most days he drinks his hours away to silence the voices in his head. After one drug-fueled drinking rampage, waking hungover and getting ready to rob the last dollars from his one-night stands wallet – even upon seeing the fact that she has a toddler – but not even so much as blinking an eye over being such a degenerate, he gets interrupted by his still very present ghost mentor Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly). This all leads his decision to hop on a bus to go across the country to a new town and once there immediately meets good Samaritan Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis). Freeman, who inexplicably within minutes of meeting Dan, just up and pays for his room and board, then magically gives him a job as well. Oh! to be of this place where all lives are wonderfully and simply mended right? And yes, of course all this helps Dan get his life back together, as he ‘meets’ and connects with a young Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), through the chalkboard wall in the room as she ‘Shines’ just like he does and they exchange messages through this medium. Seemingly against his will (yawn), he ends up protecting her from a group of powerful psychics, lead by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who hunt young children with psychic powers in order to feed on them to make themselves live forever.  Oh how the plot thickens as in a twists of all twists (dripping sarcasm) in order to keep Abra (yes, as in Abra-ka-dabra) safe, Torrance will of course be forced to return to the place of all his nightmares, The Overlook and face his ghosts.

The first hour is spent to a certain extent, explaining ‘The Shining’ and what the intentions of the merciless cult-group The True Knot are. As we follow Dan Torrance as a middle-aged man plagued by all these horrific memories, they take liberties left and right rolling right thru a completely inconsistent tone of plot due to the mass sprawl of locational changes. One minute we’re in a sleepy town, the next a woodland area, and then all of a sudden eight years have been and gone. The zippy nature of the editing and bloated explanation results in zero feeling of terror and needles to say, the tension is non-existent.

The second act gives more of an explanation in detailed effect, of the who, what, how, and why’s of the cult group led by Rose. They show us how the group hunt the children and we get to know the some of the main characters that follow her from Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon), Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind), Barry the Chunk (Robert Longstreet) to the creepy Grampa Flick (Carel Struycken) and Silent Sarey (Catherine Parker). We also get a lot of recurring visuals (The naked Lady in the Bathtub for example) that were meant to be scary, but by the end, are just eye roll inducing.  While the acts of Rose and her group of cannibalistic crazies are horrific, most especially the not needed but much detailed kidnapping and killing of Bradley ‘Baseball Boy’ Trevor (Jacob Tremblay), the fact is, they just aren’t scary.  The absolute revolting nature of this heinous act doesn’t make you frightened, it repulses you, which doesn’t make for a good horror scare in the slightest.  It also makes you realize that all you have to do is change these characters to vampires and the ‘steam’ to blood, and you’ve got a typical tween vampire flick going for you here, with about the same embodiment of zest to the performances as well.  Ferguson, who shines so well in action flicks, comes off here as a gypsy Rose caricature channeling Stevie Nicks, while McGregor doesn’t come close to giving us the feels that child Danny Torrance gave us.  One point in particular, there is a ridiculous ‘Buffy the Vampire’ type fight sequence where a supernaturally charged Rebecca Ferguson takes out an axe-wielding Ewen McGregor in a martial arts type scenario that is so out of place in this film that holding in the laughter is difficult because they are trying to have us believe this is serious stuff.  The ridiculousness of scenes like this screeches throughout the film. There is however, one big stand out performance here in Kyliegh Curran, a superb young actress (whom I hope we see much more of in the future) who makes her character so believable and gives us her all.

The third and final act then arrives, and the entire story crumbles much like the Overlook itself. Plagued by an overshadowing sickness that ‘The Shining’ had produced. Nostalgia. Remember that time where Jack viciously chopped the bedroom door down with an axe? Or that moment where blood came hurtling through the hallways in slow motion? What about Room 237? The introductory swooping camera movement that Kubrick embraced whilst the Torrance’s drove to the hotel? The typewriter? Slowly walking up the stairs in a confrontational manner? The snow-covered hedge maze? The twins? No? You don’t remember? No worries as Director Mike Flanagan has got you covered. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, yet it must be handled with delicacy. The difference between imitating and homage is very fine, and unfortunately Flanagan settled for the former.

Sadly most of this film was just..meh. It lacked the nail biting atmosphere that ‘The Shining’ had in spades. It lacked a lot of fear of any kind really.  One can argue that it is wrong and unfair to compare the two films given the uniqueness of Kubrick’s vision, but Doctor Sleep invites these comparisons by constantly referencing The Shining in flashbacks, relying on much of Kubrick’s imagery to pedal its cheap scares.

Grade: C-

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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“DOCTOR SLEEP” IS OUT NOW IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE

 

REVIEW: “GOOD BOYS” (2019) Universal

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Imagine my surprise at seeing this film was actually getting some positive hype on it as I really didn’t know what I was going into to see..and that’s how I like to do it.
Unfortunately “Good Boys” is not as smartly written as I had hope for. It’s funny to a point, but the film seems to be so smitten by the sixth-grade boys poking around adult themes that it rarely tries to go beyond being raunchy and crass. Sadly, those are the times it’s actually good.

The jokes here almost feel too easy and too shallow. Part of the problem is here is that the film wants to convey the feeling of films we’ve seen before, but with sixth graders instead. Think Superbad or  American Pie with 12 yr olds though I will say it does also take the time to focus on some slightly more innocent things as well, like going to their first ‘kissing party’ and realizing they don’t know how. But essentially things could be more witty than boiling it down to the parents porn paraphernalia and ‘what are anal beads’ and the ‘swing’ in the parents room.

The kids here do a decent job at acting Jacob Tremblay playing the lead Max is pretty much an every man type role who wants the girl and goes to great exaggerated lengths to get her, over & over again you see all the break ups played out rather humourously.  Brady Noon is the drama kid Thor, who wants to be cool, tries to hard, but he can really sing well, so of course ends up as the lead in the school play. And Keith L. Williams as Lucas, is the nice, honest guy almost to a fault.  Again, these are all archetypes we saw in American Pie shrunk down to pint-sized levels. The main problem with that is this films wants to apply the same standards of those comedies to this one.

On paper, it probably seems like a great idea that just didn’t hit it’s well-intended mark. Don’t get me wrong as while you do laugh at parts, it just doesn’t feel witty enough to make you genuinely laugh out loud. Sure, it was cute and amusing, but as a comedy, it left a lot to be desired.

Grade: C+

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Media Screening: Monday, August 12, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“GOOD BOYS” HITS THEATERS WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, AUGUST 16, 2019

REVIEW: “WONDER” (2017) Lionsgate

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With Jacob Tremblay as Auggie“WONDER” bring us the sweet story based on the New York Times bestseller by R.J. Palacio. We get to know Auggie slowly during the film and find out about his ongoing life, like his twenty-seven surgeries on his face, how he keeps his hospital bracelets as souvenirs and how his supportive parents Isabel (Julia Roberts), and Nate (Owen Wilson) have decided to send him to school for the first time ever. See until now, Auggie has been home-schooled by Isabel, but it’s 5th grade and time for “real” school. While his face is without a doubt deformed, he is in no way as seriously damaged as say John Merrick – the famous The Elephant Man, or Rocky Dennis – the young man in Mask, (portrayed so wonderfully by Eric Stoltz), but we know this can’t be an easy decision for anyone involved. Auggie’s older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), also carries a burden that few understand and along with her childhood friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) they have their own vignette-type sequences where their stories are told. Vidovic is also probably the best casting of the film and this is very much her story as well.

The film kicks into gear once school starts. Mandy Patinkin plays the principal Mr. Tushman (a name he embraces), and we get the expected nice kid Jack Will (Noah Jupe), the girl who befriends him when others won’t Summer (Mille Davis), the rich-kid bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar), and the popular girl Charlotte (Elle McKinnon). Some of the characters have various segments of the film named after them, with each their own stories to tell, and though these are quite loosely told, they do provide some semblance of structure to the film and keep viewers focused on the diverse personalities. Along we go to thru the normal schoolings of any 5th grader really, with things such as the Science Fair (which of course they win), field trip (all inclusive with bullies & those who stand up to them) and school play – where of course miracles happen. While each of these little stories provide critical turning points, most of the film is based on Auggie’s impact on those whose path he crosses and some of them are sweet and touching, and some of them just seem the norm for any 5th grader really.

It’s a weird middle ground for a movie to exist in, a plot of hits & misses as it moves slowly through the story, almost as if it simply doesn’t trust itself to tell its own story and be understood. It simply misses the mark on some things, but yet on others, hits the nail on the head. Daveed Diggs has a nice turn as 5th grade class teacher Mr. Browne, and the always wonderful Sonia Braga makes a much-too-brief appearance in Via’s little vignette as Gran. Director Chbosky previously gave us the gem THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, and this time out he allows us to explore the fragility of friendship and family, and the importance of toughness in an individual, it simply seems to go through the motions at times of what is ‘supposed’ to happen. But I will say, there is something special about what unfolds between children beautifully captured here, though the ending is pure Hollywood. But we should accept the crowd-pleasing cheesiness and be thankful for a pleasant, entertaining family movie for the holiday season.

Grade: C+
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Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 9, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate
‘WONDER’ is out in theatres nationwide Friday, November 17, 2017

REVIEW: “ROOM” Q & A w/Author/Dir/Prod/Actor/Composer

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At the start of Room we find “Ma” (Brie Larson) and her son “Jack” (Jacob Tremblay) living in a backyard shed they call “Room” and being held by their captor “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers). Since Jack has never known there to be an outside world, he has no idea that anything exists outside of Room.

From that moment on it’s a ripped-from-the-headlines Law & Order:SVU episode, which isn’t to say that’s bad as I watch the show faithfully. I’m truly not giving anything away to state the obvious that Ma and Jack escape Room, as the movie is more about the ability of each to cope with the outside world. For Jack, everything from that point on is a completely new experience. Ma, despite having lived for 17 years in the ‘real world’ before being kidnapped as a teen, being held captive and having a child, encounters different obstacles – as the world has moved on, and she also encounters doubts about her own ability to be a mother to Jack.

I’d been expecting a suspenseful drama-thriller about a daring escape, and what it would entail and the follow-up to this as the movie is based on a novel by Emma Donoghue. As the first half of the film concentrates on life inside Room for Ma and Jack as all she has told and convinced Jack for five years that all is well and that what they have is a normal life, that what they see on television is not real, but everything from the single bed to the lidless toilet tank is definitely their reality. She does sacrifice much as she tries to keep Jack happy and safe, even to the point of giving herself over to her captor on a regular basis in exchange for food and other items for Jack and herself.
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To say that this first half moves slowly would be to understate things. We don’t just get a slice of the life that they lead in Room – we actually get the entire pie, and most of it just isn’t all that exciting or intriguing. We do get to see a little into the characters of the characters but in any event, it’s just way to much time spent watching their every move which gets a bit monotonous and leads to some impatience with where they are heading with the film.

As we finally build up to the escape you have the only brief moment of suspense of the entire film. Once they do escape the focus quickly shifts from a struggle for survival to a struggle to understand. Ma’s parents, “Nancy” (Joan Allen) blink-and-you- miss-him William H. Macy as her dad “Robert”, have different reactions to the return of their daughter and the arrival of their grandson whom they didn’t even know existed. In the years since her abduction, her parents have separated; her mom now lives with her boyfriend “Leo” (Tom McCamus). Add in to all this the slew of media hype, lawyers, and so much more adding in to the stress of adapting to all of it sorta gives the impression that escaping may have been the easy part.

The acting is good..not great, but Larson’s has a few moments though can also be awkwardly annoying at times and the same can be said for young Jacob Tremblay though he carries himself very well and holds his own here.

But truly nothing can overcome what’s basically a tedious script and film. The movie is mostly a series of plodding events and could honestly have been titled as such as packs no punch at its core. Usually when there is no action, you look for meaning, but when there is no meaning or action, you look for the exit. The film suffers from spending too much time contemplating things and not enough time doing them – or even at the least discussing them.

Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, October 12, 2015 – Courtesy of the A24 & PGA
In Theatres Nationwide

POST Q & A with Author/Screenwriter: Emma Donoghue, Director: Lenny Abrahamson, Actor: Jacob Tremblay, Composers & Producers

With a very full stage of everyone behind the movie including the young Jacob Tremblay who as an 8 year old..should have been in bed at 9:30pm on a weeknight..:D But they did go into some depth of how they made the film of getting Brie & Jacob to spend time together so as to get to know each other so as a child, Jacob would feel more comfortable. Directors & Producers talked about location shooting and the Composer on his musical choices for the film. Poor Jacob had the longest question I’ve ever heard asked to anyone at a Q & A, adult or child, to the point where the audience started to laugh..since not even I could keep up with the length of it, it was mostly about being a child actor and what he brought to the table..and I must say he answered as best he could. All in all, they did seem a great group to work with. Just wished I liked the film more.