Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: “Table 19”!

table 19 posterI love going to weddings.  Well okay; I hate having to figure out what to wear (I’m not great with dressing myself up classy-like), but I love weddings.  And wedding receptions.  Who doesn’t love cake?  But maybe the folks over at Table 19 have a different – and hilarious – take.  Synopsis!

Ex-maid of honor Eloise (Anna Kendrick) – having been relieved of her duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via text – decides to hold her head up high and attend her oldest friend’s wedding anyway. She finds herself seated at the ‘random’ table in the back of the ballroom with a disparate group of strangers, most of whom should have known to just send regrets (but not before sending something nice off the registry). As everyone’s secrets are revealed, Eloise learns a thing or two from the denizens of Table 19. Friendships – and even a little romance – can happen under the most unlikely circumstances.

Sounds like a good time, right?  Let’s crash this joint!

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Catching Up Review: “La La Land”

la-la-land-posterThere’s a difference between a loving homage, and a poorly lit, badly directed, slap-and-paste edited, ripoff of the greats. Emma Stone gives a wonderful performance despite the dreck she has to wade through. And while she’s amazing, the plot is too choppy to truly care about any character here. I can’t believe this mess is directed by Damien Chazelle, who brought us the incredible Whiplash.

Am I mad?  No.  Disappointed, let-down, and underwhelmed?  Definitely.  Do I hate this film?  Well…maybe kinda, a little bit.  But really, it’s more that La La Land is the worst thing a musical can be; sloppy and pointless. Looking for an engrossing, well thought out story with killer music? Please, PLEASE, watch Sing Street instead.

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Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: “Before I Fall”

Before I Fall posterIt’s a gorgeous May-in-February day, so why not give away some passes?  Well, don’t mind if I do!  I’ve got passes for Before I Fall, and it sounds like a Deep Thoughts version of Groundhog Day.  And I mean that in the best way possible.  Synopsis!

What if you had only one day to change absolutely everything? Samantha Kingston has everything: the perfect friends, the perfect guy, and a seemingly perfect future. Then, everything changes. After one fateful night, Sam wakes up with no future at all. Trapped reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question just how perfect her life really was. As she begins to untangle the mystery of a life suddenly derailed, she must also unwind the secrets of the people closest to her, and discover the power of a single day to make a difference, not just in her own life, but in the lives of those around her–before she runs out of time for good.

Ready to question your own perfect life?  Then let’s go!

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“The Cure for Wellness” is a whole lot of bad crazy. With eels.

a-cure-for-wellness-posterNutshell: Bojan Bazelli’s beautiful cinematography and Eve Stewart’s picture-perfect production design are wasted in this derivative horror mishmosh.  Speaking of criminal wastes of talent, Celia Imrie, Dane DeHaaan and Jason Isaacs turn in wonderful performances that this film just doesn’t deserve. Pretty it is, but less than halfway through this overlong slog, and it’s obvious that Wellness just doesn’t know what to do with itself. Grade: D

“There’s a terrible darkness here.”

Story: Some guy dies of a heart attack at the office.  Another one – a head honcho – goes off to a spa retreat for the uber-rich.  The third is tasked with finding the honcho at said spa, and bring him back to work, because apparently nobody thought to ask honcho for power of attorney while he’s gone.  Third ends up caught in the strange Hotel California of the spa, and…bring forth the eels!

Genre I’d put it in: Overambitious Overlong Overblown Wannabe Hammer Horror

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Orignal: Oh, it’s original all right.  (Apart from all the horror trope shout-outs.)

Gotta say: This film is like a bad boyfriend; all kinds of pretty, and so promising at the start. But then things get weird, creepy, and drag on for far too long. It also doens’t know what it wants to be once it’s got you in it’s clutches. Put simply, Wellness is a clusterfuck. A beautiful, atmospheric clusterfuck, but a clusterfuck nonetheless.

A mishmash of horror films, tropes and clichés from years past: The Shining, The Phantom of the Opera, House of Usher, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Throw in some Shutter Island, and every Hammer and AIP Gothic tale while you’re at it. Wellness is atmospheric and that’s truly glorious, as are the lead performances and the teasing start to the madness.  But at almost two and a half hours, Wellness decides that in order to justify the long run time, it’s gotta cram everything into the plot, causing story bloat and unintentional hilarity.

Worst yet, Wellness commits the cardinal sin of horror movies. No, not stupidity; there’s something to be said for a good ol’ fashioned stupid horror movie. Wellness is tacky. Without spoiling too much, (not like you should actually go out and see this dreck) I’ll say that as the head of the spa, Jason Isaacs tries his best to pull together a sinister, looming presence.  And all of that hard work and effort is thrown in the trash at the silly, icky, Cosanguinity Ex Machina of a climax that throws his wonderful performance into the trash. (What?  If they can make up this crap, I can make up a trope.)

Throw in a hooded secret society, a “secret” in plain sight that nobody at the spa ever decided to check out (a crumbling old remnant of a castle smack dab in the middle of the spa, and nobody ever even goes near it?  NOBODY?), and of course a fire that consumes all at the end.  Which is kinda what I wish had happened to the original print of this film.  Google Wellness and check out the glorious images, and you’ll save yourself from wishing you could cure yourself of the two and a half hour loss of time that you could have spent doing literally anything else.

#Protip: Screenwriter Justin Haythe wrote 2008’s powerful Revolutionary Road.  But he also wrote 2013’s stinker The Lone Ranger.  With Wellness, looks like he’s in freefall.

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Elsewhere Review: Ann Brashares, “The Whole Thing Together”

Read the original piece RIGHT HERE at The Green Man Review!

[NOTE: I received a Kindle advance reader’s copy in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation, not even a trip to the Hamptons or a box of LEGOs. But I’ll live.]

the-whole-thing-together-cover“If you put both sides together, it would kind of make a whole.  But you never put both sides together.”

Step-siblings Sasha and Ray are seventeen years old. Sasha’s dad and Ray’s mom were married, but divorced and married other people, who became Sasha’s mom and Ray’s dad. So Sasha and Ray aren’t related. Are you with me so far? Good.

Sasha’s dad Rodger is rich. Ray’s mom Lila isn’t. Manhattan, Brooklyn. Day, night.  Love, hate…or rather, hate, hate.  Because Sasha’s dad and Ray’s mom can’t stand each other.  Hate, loathe and abominate each other, to be precise.  Yet they share a beach house in the Hamptons that neither could give up, where they switch on and off every summer week/ school weekend like a seldom used faucet. Sasha and Ray have shared a bedroom their whole life, but they’ve never met.  Each week or weekend one has the room, and then when the switch is made, the other takes over.  They share books, LEGOs, flip-flops, toiletries, even half-sisters.  And now Sasha and Ray are starting to wonder if they should share a coffee and meet each other face-to-face. Continue reading

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“The LEGO Batman Movie” – everything’s still awesome

lego-batman-2“I’m Richard Grayson, but everybody at the orphanage calls me Dick.”

‘Well, kids can be cruel.’

Nutshell: A crazy, over-the-top extravaganza of villainous excess and Batman badassery. Lots of adults-get-it-humor that isn’t too much for the wee ones. A bit too focused on action and packing in All The Things. But the shout-outs to Batman (Batmen?) of old, and the easygoing cameraderie of the voice actors make up for a few hiccups in narrative tone.  Grade: A-

Story: Superhero and all-around curmudgeonly superstar Batman (Bruce Wayne, shhhh!) has a blast being Batman.  There’s something missing though; a family. But you’ll have to convince Batman of that, especially now that he’s accidentally adopted a son.

Genre I’d put it in: Super Spectacular Superhero Movies Of Awesomeness (With LEGOs) Continue reading

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TrailerWatch: “It Comes At Night” is ready to mess with your apocalypse

it-comes-at-nighth-poster“It’s okay. It’s okay.  It’s okay…”

The poster for It Comes At Night looks creepy as hell.  And the film’s new trailer is damn unsettling. That’s a high compliment from yours truly.  Synopsis!

Imagine the end of the world— Now imagine something worse.

Award-winning filmmaker Trey Edward Shults follows his incredible debut feature Krisha with It Comes At Night, a horror film following a man (Joel Edgerton) as he is learns that the evil stalking his family home may be only a prelude to horrors that come from within.

Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, the tenuous domestic order he has established with his wife and son is put to the ultimate test with the arrival of a desperate young family seeking refuge. Despite the best intentions of both families, paranoia and mistrust boil over as the horrors outside creep ever-closer, awakening something hidden and monstrous within him as he learns that the protection of his family comes at the cost of his soul.

“An unnatural threat terrorizes the world” and “something hidden and monstrous within”?  Tag-team horror! Great, right? Well, maybe not so great for the folks in the film, but hey. Looks spooky, and it’s from the folks who brought you The Witch. I’m in for this new joint.

It Comes At Night comes at’cha August 25th, 2017.

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