Friday, October 23, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend Veeeeerrryyy Niiiiccce Edition: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Haunt, On the Rocks, White Riot, The Owners, Totally Under Control, Blush, Emma


For Veeerrrryy Niiiice Viewer People - Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon)
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm keeps much of what made the first film such a crazy, funny experience while tackling some new, modern American issues.  However, the shock value that was characteristic of the first movie just doesn't have as much impact this time around.  For more information, check out our review!

For Those Missing Halloween Festivities - Haunt (Digital, Disc, Streaming)
Haunt's combination of atmospheric, impactful sound, tense and gruesome horror, and unsettling villains makes this a haunted house you will want to explore.  For more information, check out our review!

For Rock Fans and Future Activists - White Riot (Virtual Cinema)
White Riot is a sadly timely movie that showcases how music can be a force for good with a rebellious soundtrack and cast of characters.  For more information, check out our review!

For Relationship Drama Fans - On the Rocks (Apple)
On The Rocks takes many of the tropes of this genre and turns them on their head, with an unconventional story, Bill Murray craziness, and great chemistry between Jones and Wayans.   For more information, check out our review!  

For Those Going Through A Midlife Crisis - Blush (Amazon)
Blush tells a different mid life crisis story with some great acting and an unconventional plot.  For more information, check out our review!

For Those Stuck At Home - Totally Under Control (Hulu)
Totally Under Control looks at the US response to COVID-19 in an eye opening and timely documentary!

For Those Bored And Looking For Trouble - The Owners (Redbox and Digital)
The Owners turns the traditional break in thriller on its head with some brutal scenes, a ton of tension, and a good cast of characters.  For more information, check out our review!

For Those Looking For Something Happy - Emma (HBO)
Emma brings the Jane Austin classic to life with a colorful style, a stellar cast, and an absolute charm that will capture you from the first scene.  For more information, check out our review!

50 States of Fright Review: Bite Sized Regional Horror

Release date: April 13, 2020
Running time: 14-21 minute episodes
Starring:  Rachel Brosnahan, Travis Fimmel, Taissa Farmiga, Ron Livingston

Quibi series explores stories based on urban legends from different places in the United States, taking viewers deeper into the horrors that lurk just beneath the surface.  These stories follow the usual Quibi format of presenting digestible episodic content that can be appreciated on your phone in short increments.  For this screening we were shown two episodes, The Golden Arm, which was based in Michigan, and Almost There, which was based in Iowa.  

First off, 50 States of Fright is a nice vehicle for some digestible horror.  The stories were quick to get into and, as is usually with Quibi content, evolved quickly and ended each part in a cliffhanger.  But because the episodes are only 2 or 3 parts, there are far fewer cliff hangers and a-ha moments than you might get in a full on, movie-length Quibi experience.  And for these bite-sized horror nuggets, Quibi went all out to get some very talented actors.  The two episodes we saw had some a-list talent doing what they do best.  And for the most part the effects were also very well done.  The short length leads to some really good production values and I definitely enjoyed the spectacle of it.  Of the two, the one set in Iowa was a much better horror film.  It is a more recent episode so I wonder if the 50 States of Fright have evolved since it first debuted in April.  It had a more serious tone, better effects and overall horror feel, and felt less campy than the first one did.  

However, 50 States of Fright's advertised purpose and execution are a little disconnected.  I was excited to see urban legends and other stories from the various states of America, a look into cryptids and other local folklore.  But what you get from the two episodes I've seen is a smattering of horror stories that are simply set in that locale.  There didn't seem to be anything specific about either story that evoked the state or local legends, other than the story just being set there.  It felt like these stories were written, and then just shoehorned into a state to keep the theme going.  And the short length is nice, but it also makes the horror stories less complex than some other episodic horror.  Hulu's Into the Dark is a great example of periodic horror that is themed, but also movie length.  These stories were quick, but felt too simple and over too quickly to really enjoy it.

50 States of Fright brings digestible horror to you, with tales that are set in each of the 50 States.  It provides some great talent, high production values, and a veritable buffet of horror stories.

Rent it.

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Trick or Treat Review: An Ensemble Cast of Quirky British Characters

Frances Barber	...	Miss Ferguson Jessamine-Bliss Bell	Jessamine-Bliss Bell	...	Karen Richard Carter	Richard Carter	...	Damo Brady Dowad	Brady Dowad	...	Baxter / Grim Reaper Ben Fairman	Ben Fairman	...	Maitre D Jason Flemyng	Jason Flemyng	...	The Taxi Driver Craig Kelly	Craig Kelly	...	Greg Kielty Dean Lennox Kelly	Dean Lennox Kelly	...	Dan Kielty Paul Kelly	Paul Kelly		 Kris Marshall	Kris Marshall	...	The Cop Maimie McCoy	Maimie McCoy	...	Gemma Jason Merrells	Jason Merrells	...	Bizzie Shaun Parkes	Shaun Parkes	...	Clarence Jamie Sives	Jamie Sives	...	Lesley Hugo Speer	Hugo Speer	...	The Comedian Hannah Turnbull	Hannah Turnbull	...	Tina Sophie Turnbull	Sophie Turnbull	...	Dina Eliza Walsh	Eliza Walsh	...	Baby Abbie

Release date: October 25,2019
Running time: 84 minutes
Starring: Frances Barber, Jessamine-Bliss Bell, Richard Carter, Craig Kelly, Dean Lennox Kelly
Director: Edward Boase
Writer: Geraint Anderson 

Greg Kielty (Craig Kelly)'s life is turned upside down when his estranged brother Dan (Dean Kelly) turns up, claiming to have drunkenly run someone over. But has Dan just murdered a gangster's son? Or maybe there's an even more sinister explanation.

Frances Barber	...	Miss Ferguson Jessamine-Bliss Bell	Jessamine-Bliss Bell	...	Karen Richard Carter	Richard Carter	...	Damo Brady Dowad	Brady Dowad	...	Baxter / Grim Reaper Ben Fairman	Ben Fairman	...	Maitre D Jason Flemyng	Jason Flemyng	...	The Taxi Driver Craig Kelly	Craig Kelly	...	Greg Kielty Dean Lennox Kelly	Dean Lennox Kelly	...	Dan Kielty Paul Kelly	Paul Kelly		 Kris Marshall	Kris Marshall	...	The Cop Maimie McCoy	Maimie McCoy	...	Gemma Jason Merrells	Jason Merrells	...	Bizzie Shaun Parkes	Shaun Parkes	...	Clarence Jamie Sives	Jamie Sives	...	Lesley Hugo Speer	Hugo Speer	...	The Comedian Hannah Turnbull	Hannah Turnbull	...	Tina Sophie Turnbull	Sophie Turnbull	...	Dina Eliza Walsh	Eliza Walsh	...	Baby Abbie
Trick or Treat has an ensemble British cast that includes some well known names, including Frances Barber as the crime lord Miss Ferguson.  The cast of characters do a good job of creating a quirky mystery with some light horror elements. I especially liked Greg, a middle aged former gangster who has tried to turn his life around but might be dragged back into the lifestyle by his estranged brother.  Miss Ferguson was an interesting and unpredictable person.  And I also really liked Shaun Parkes as Clarence, he had the right balance of camaraderie with Greg due to their past but also unpredictability and ruthlessness given his current employer.  And there is a Taxi driver that gives some motivational life advice that I really appreciated.  It was something that a lot of us might need to hear right now and it was a nice touch for this film.

The overall premise of this film is a strange situation, but it has some fun sharp writing that keeps the story going.  And part of this is the complexity of the characters, and especially the main character Greg, who have many different motivations underlying their predicament and reaction to this situation.  There are a few characters that I thought were misses, such as a silent tough guy who doesn't come off as intimidating, but overall the characters are fun to spend time with.  However, despite the Halloween themed name and it taking place on Halloween night, the story is more of an independent situation that happens during Halloween.  Other than a strange plot thread involving a costumed individual, the movie itself could have been set at any time.  And the story does take a long time to develop and then seems to go off the rails towards the end, which leads to the interesting ending but getting there is a little bit of a stretch.  

Trick or Treat's cast of quirky British characters, sharp writing, and nuanced situations make for an interesting night for the mid-life crisis main character. 

Rent it.

Trick or Treat Quirky British Movie Humor Suspense Thriller
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Thursday, October 22, 2020

32 Malasana Street Review: An Atmospheric Family Haunting

Begoña Vargas	...	Amparo Iván Marcos	Iván Marcos	...	Manolo Bea Segura	Bea Segura	...	Candela Sergio Castellanos	Sergio Castellanos	...	Pepe José Luis de Madariaga	José Luis de Madariaga	...	Fermín Iván Renedo	Iván Renedo	...	Rafael Concha Velasco	Concha Velasco	...	Maruja Javier Botet	Javier Botet	...	Anciana / Administrador María Ballesteros	María Ballesteros	...	Lola Rosa Álvarez	Rosa Álvarez	...	Susana Almudena Salort	Almudena Salort	...	Clara Hugo Fuertes	Hugo Fuertes	...	Hermano pequeño Álex Fuertes	Álex Fuertes	...	Hermano mayor Antonio Del Olmo	Antonio Del Olmo	...	Director del Banco Eduardo Antuña	Eduardo Antuña	...	Dueño de la Pensión

Release date: October 22, 2020
Running time: 101 minutes
Starring Begoña Vargas, Iván Marcos, Bea Segura, Sergio Castellanos, José Luis de Madariaga, Iván Renedo, Javier Botet. 
Directed by Alberto Pintó.

A Shudder Exclusive.  It’s 1976. The Olmedo family has left the countryside for a new life in Madrid. But their new home becomes a house of horrors in this hit supernatural thriller based on actual paranormal events. 

This film has a great setting and a very good creep factor.  The film is set in an old apartment building, and the natural issues with an older building make this a perfect environment for a haunting.  There are creeks, scuttling sounds, and a fantastic use of old lights.  When the lights turn on, there is crackling electricity and flickering lights due to the age, which just sets the scene perfectly.  The cast of 32 Malasana Street do a good job of creating a believable, overwhelmed family.  And part of this haunting deals with the family dynamics, which give it a personal aspect.  The family has sold everything to move to the city, so are hoping to stick it out with the house for better or worse.  And there are some interesting class dynamics due to the family's live in helper is the subject of much of the haunting.  There are also comments on city life vs. rural life that are an interesting subtext to the overall haunt. 

Begoña Vargas	...	Amparo Iván Marcos	Iván Marcos	...	Manolo Bea Segura	Bea Segura	...	Candela Sergio Castellanos	Sergio Castellanos	...	Pepe José Luis de Madariaga	José Luis de Madariaga	...	Fermín Iván Renedo	Iván Renedo	...	Rafael Concha Velasco	Concha Velasco	...	Maruja Javier Botet	Javier Botet	...	Anciana / Administrador María Ballesteros	María Ballesteros	...	Lola Rosa Álvarez	Rosa Álvarez	...	Susana Almudena Salort	Almudena Salort	...	Clara Hugo Fuertes	Hugo Fuertes	...	Hermano pequeño Álex Fuertes	Álex Fuertes	...	Hermano mayor Antonio Del Olmo	Antonio Del Olmo	...	Director del Banco Eduardo Antuña	Eduardo Antuña	...	Dueño de la Pensión
As all good hauntings do, it builds slowly with little occurrences here and there to put the family on edge.  And after everything is established, the film takes a big leap to ratchet up the tension and throw the family in disarray.  The setting feels authentic, the build up is deliciously slow at times, and the scares are aplenty.  And despite this great buildup and sense of tension, the film relies a lot on some of the traditional horror tropes of hauntings.  Jump scares, shadows, things appearing and then disappearing, they are all done well but also occur a lot.  The haunt is very well done but it also is something that we have seen before in this genre.  

That being said, the film does go off the rails towards the end, with the haunting becoming more and more extreme.  And when they do show the apparition, it has a CG, sort of ridiculous look to it.  Thankfully that doesn't appear for long but overall the ghost was underwhelming after the great build up.  And the film balances multiple story threads with the various characters, leading to a confusing end to what was a good, atmospheric start.  That being said, this is still a good example of a haunt movie with a fantastic setup and atmosphere.

32 Malasana Street has a fantastic setup and atmosphere that will have you jumping at each creak, scuttle, or electricity flicker in this family haunting.   

Rent it.

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32 Malasana Street is available to stream on Shudder starting October 22, 2020. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

News: Quibi Shutting Down

Quibi, the short-form mobile focused video streaming service, is calling it quits today after about 6 months.  The format was an interesting one, mobile focused movies that were watchable in 8-10 minute chunks, and that were edited in both landscape and portrait mode to be viewable in either, but the service just didn't catch on.  Despite some interesting content (like The Stranger and When the Streetlights Go On), the service struggled to find and maintain a following.  It is rumored that of the 910,000 users who signed up for the generous 3 month trial, only 72,000 remained as paying customers.  Part of this was likely circumstances as a mobile-focused streaming service launching right before a lockdown was poor timing indeed.

Although Quibi is shutting down, the bigger question is what happens to the content that the company has amassed.  It has a nice catalog of star-studded films and short form content, so where that ends up is anyone's guess.  Reports were that it was trying to sell the content earlier, but no one was buying.  Hopefully this will find a home somewhere.  I could see this being particularly useful for AppleTV+, which has some great content but not a lot of it.  An injection of Quibi's videos and the recent extension of the free trial through February 2021 could be just what the service needs to retain some users. 

Bad Hair Review: A Horror Satire With A Unique Hair Raising Message

Starring: Elle Lorraine, Vanessa Williams, Lena Waithe, Laverne Cox, Jay Pharoah, Kelly Rowland, Blair Underwood, James Van Der Beek and Usher Raymond Written and Directed by: Justin Simien

Release date: October 23, 2020
Running time: 102 minutes
Starring: Elle Lorraine, Vanessa Williams, Lena Waithe, Laverne Cox, Jay Pharoah, Kelly Rowland, Blair Underwood, James Van Der Beek and Usher Raymond
Written and Directed by: Justin Simien

In this horror satire set in 1989, BAD HAIR follows an ambitious young woman named Anna (Elle Lorraine), who gets a weave in order to succeed in the image-obsessed world of music television. However, her flourishing career comes at a great cost when she realizes that her new hair may have a mind of its own.  

Starring: Elle Lorraine, Vanessa Williams, Lena Waithe, Laverne Cox, Jay Pharoah, Kelly Rowland, Blair Underwood, James Van Der Beek and Usher Raymond Written and Directed by: Justin Simien
Perhaps the best thing about Bad Hair is that it feels like a very different kind of film, especially in the horror genre.  The movie has a air of empowerment about it.  The film is set in the music television industry in the 1980s, when black artists and hosts were defining what black music and culture would be.  There is this great push and pull between the idealists who want to keep black music and culture unique, and the business folks who are trying to push everything more mainstream.  I really loved the writing in these parts too: the coworkers calling each other sister and brother was a nice touch, as were some of the cultural issues that the film approached at the start.  In fact, this film is best when it is not focusing on the horror aspects, which is a sad thing to say about a horror film.  I loved the message of nonconforming, and of looking at what people will do to rise up the corporate ladder. 
 And because this is set in a music television show, the music is just fantastic.  It is a lot of fun to hear some of these songs, and many feel like they could have been ripped from the 80s and 90s.  And the fashion was just fantastic.  Really, this film did a great job recreating this time, from the clothes, the colors, the music, the technology, and the general mannerisms.  

However, when Anna gets her weave to try and change her appearance and please her bosses, the film takes a different turn.  At the start it stays true to the culture clash at the heart of the film, but when the hair starts to exhibit other properties, the film loses some of its charm.  The hair parts are interesting enough and can be pretty funny, but when they go over the top it seems a little silly.  And they are accompanied by some intentionally funny effects that break you out of the horror mood.  And some of the sequences dial it up to 11, with some very crazy circumstances and consequences to this hair raising situation.  The whole film is satire, so I believe all of this was intentional, but I also think this would have been better as a satire without the horror elements.  Some stories are fun to tell through a horror lense and this one just didn't feel like it.

Bad Hair's message of empowerment and fantastic commitment to weaving in style, music, and technology of the 80s and 90s make this horror satire with a unique message. 

Rent it.

Bad Hair Hulu Horror Satire Drama Comedy 90s music 80s usher
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Bad Hair is available to stream on Hulu starting October 23.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Review: Additional Cultural Learnings From Our Favorite Khazakhstan Reporterman

Release date: October 23, 2020
Running time: 96 minutes
Starring: Starring Sacha Baron Cohen & Irina Nowak
Directed: by Jason Woliner

Borat is back, and this time he is trying to curry favor on behalf of the once glorious nationi of Khazakhstan.  In BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Borat must travel back to America to attempt to give a gift to Michael Pence.  However, when the gift gets damaged in transport, Borat must come up with a new plan to curry favor, one involving his daughter and those in power.

If you saw the original Borat, then you know what you are getting with Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.  Borat plays on stereotypes of Eastern Europeans as a backwards, superstitious, and primitive nation.  And Borat Subsequent Moviefilm keeps that trend alive with Borat again learning about technology, women's liberation, and other "modern" concepts.  And the formula works still.  Borat is very funny and his ridiculous antics will make you chuckle as well as respect Sacha Baron Cohen and Irina Nowak for their commitment to the roles.  The pair do some crazy things in this film in public and you have to think that this is not an easy feat to pull off.  And the film also has some funny callbacks to the original movie that fans of the first film will enjoy seeing.

But I think the biggest issue with the film is that America has changed in the intervening years between Borat and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.  The things that were said and exposed in the original Borat were shocking when they came out.  People were genuinely surprised that Americans could think and say the things that happened in the film.  However, in the last four years, a large subset of Americans have become bolder and more outspoken in their hatred and that has translated into less shock value for this film.  To be fair, there are many shocking moments and some very elaborate pranks pulled off; but I was no longer surprised that people said what they said on the camera.  And whereas the first film was more about racism, this film skews more on the political spectrum.  There are still racist parts, but it is a large part focused on politics and sexism.  And I did also wonder how much of the film was scripted.  There are some parts of the film that are clearly reality TV, but there are also some parts that seem too perfect. Especially the scenes during COVID, I can't imagine that there were not permits and other requirements that had to get approved to do some of this work.  But if you can put that aside, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm keeps much of what made the first film so enjoyable while tackling new, modern American issues.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm keeps much of what made the first film such a crazy, funny experience while tackling some new, modern American issues.  However, the shock value that was characteristic of the first movie just doesn't have as much impact this time around.

Rent it.

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Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is available to stream on Amazon Prime starting October 23.  If you want to attend a special early screening on October 22, RSVP here

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