Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Babadook (2014)

Number Rolled: 51
Movie Name/Year: The Babadook (2014)
Tagline: If it’s in a word. Or it’s in a look. You can’t get rid of… the Babadook.
Genre: Thriller
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Screen Australia, Causeway Films, South Australian Film Corporation, Smoking Gun Productions, Entertainment One
Producer: Pete Best, Julie Byrne, Kristina Ceyton, Jan Chapman, Jeff Harrison, Kristian Moliere, Jonathan Page, Michael Tear
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Actors: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Benjamin Winspear, Chloe Hurn, Tim Purcell, Hachi

Blurb from Netflix: Sam’s frequent tantrums turn sinister when a creepy children’s book mysteriously appears in his room, and he asks his mother, “Do you want to die?”

Selina’s Point of View:
I enjoyed The Babadook.

This film seemed to start slow, but it was really a simmering burn that caused the thrills that came later to be more effective. It didn’t rely on jump scares at all. I have a feeling Alfred Hitchcock would have liked The Babadook, if only on the merit of its successful suspense.

There were some minor issues I had, but when I found out this was Jennifer Kent’s (The New Adventures of Black Beauty, Babe: Pig in the City, Murder Call) first time writing or directing a full length feature film, it began to make sense.

As a first film goes, The Babadook was extraordinary. The issues I noted had to do with the ending and the camera angles. I recognize them now as novice mistakes, which makes them less of an issue.

The acting was great, even from young Noah Wiseman (Funny or Die Presents, Spaghetti, The Gift). He did have some of that over-acting, strange facial expression stuff that child actors tend to have, but it wasn’t so bad that it pulled me out of the story.

I might watch The Babadook again if it happened to be on, though I wouldn’t really seek it out for a second showing. What I do want to see is how Jennifer Kent evolves as a director/writer. I look forward to whatever her next project might be.

Cat’s Point of View:
This movie was unsettling and disturbing on a few levels.

Something is still lingering with me, even now, the day after I watched the film.

That, however, is one of the earmarks of a horror movie that has done its job well, right? This one nailed it.

I woke up in the middle of the night and nearly jumped out of my skin. (It’s a minor miracle that this happened quietly, and that I didn’t shriek loud enough to wake the neighbors.)

I had some dark clothing draped over the handle bars of my exercise bike at the foot of my bed; producing a “shadow creature” in silhouette against the faint light from the windows beyond.

For me, the psychological aspect of the thrills from suspense and subtlety digs in and lingers to haunt me better than any image from flashy and expensive special effects. It’s one of those love-hate side effects of a vivid imagination.

I found myself questioning reality versus madness as Essie Davis (Charlotte's Web, Australia, Burning Man) brought her bedraggled character to life, brilliantly.

Noah Wiseman surprised me with his performance as young Samuel. This was his first movie role, and he knocked it out of the park. I thought, surely, I’d see a slew of projects in his film credits – even if they were titles only released overseas, but there are only 4 starting with The Babadook. If he chooses to continue with acting, I see great things in his future if he can avoid the pitfalls that tend to ensnare child actors.

This movie was highly deserving of all of its accolades (mostly in Australia and internationally); and, frankly, should have received more recognition here. Though, such is often the case with independent “foreign” films.

For your bit of fun trivia; The Babadook popup book was published in a limited run. Copies were available for $80.00; and some of them were autographed by the writer/director, Jennifer Kent (The Well, Babe: Pig in the City, Preservation). The book includes extra pages and tidbits that did not appear in the movie.

Don’t be looking for a sequel, though. Kent owns the rights and has stated for public record that she will not be revisiting this story. This isn't a tale that needs a franchise - I think it's fabulous standing on its own.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 98%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score3.5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 3/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score4.5/5

The Random Rating: R

Movie Trailer:

Monday, January 18, 2016

HairBrained (2013)

Number Rolled: 20
Movie Name/Year: HairBrained (2013)
Tagline: This is Eli Pettifog. He’s got a score to settle, and it’s gonna get hairy.
Genre: Comedy
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production Companies: Love Lane Pictures
Producer: Sarah Bird, Stacy Blain, Stephanie Ingrassia, Tim Ingrassia, Sophia Lin, Avram Ludwig, Jason Mraz, Jim Walden
Director: Billy Kent
Writer: Sarah Bird, Billy Kent, Adam Wierzbianski
Actors: Alex Wolff, Brendan Fraser, Julia Garner, Michael Oberholtzer, Parker Posey, Greta Lee, Teddy Bergman, Robin de Jesus, Elisabeth Hower, Fred Melamed, Austin Pendleton, Kimiko Glenn, Toby Huss, Lizzy DeClement, Colman Domingo

Blurb from Netflix: When 14-year-old genius and outcast Eli Pettifog is rejected from Harvard, he ends up at Ivy League wannabe Whittman College. It’s hate at first sight. At Whittman, Eli meets 41-year-old freshman Leo Searly.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m not sure what I expected from HairBrained, but it wasn’t what I got.

What I got was a basic sports-recipe by way of a trivia contest that was mixed with something not totally unlike The New Guy (2002). It was a decent recipe and not a terrible movie… but I’m a little disappointed.

I expect more from indie films.

Indie films have their pitfalls. They usually have lower budgets, less-known actors, and first time writers/directors that haven’t had time to grow. However, they have a lot of benefits, too. Indie movies don’t have to play it safe because they don’t answer to a big company. No one’s throwing millions of dollars into making those films, so they’ve got less to lose and everything to gain.

What would Clerks (1994) be like if Kevin Smith had just copy and pasted a random recipe into it? What about Pulp Fiction (1994)? What would Pulp Fiction, arguably the best indie film in existence, be like if Quentin Tarantino had just decided to play it safe?

Recipe films are for the big-budget production companies that play it safe to save money.

HairBrained wasn’t a bad movie, but I feel like it could have been remarkable if the people in charge had taken more risks with what they had. The few risks they did take paid off big time and became very memorable.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe it was enough.

Cat’s Point of View:
For those that judge by the cover – beware. This movie is not about misfits that bond over tennis, as the poster suggests.

This movie is odd, quirky, likable, and unexpected.

I loved that this film was about a genius kid and his smart friends – and yet, doesn’t even try to get too cerebral. In fact, this movie thumbs its nose at pretentious snobbery.

While it does follow a bit of a predictable recipe in some places, I like that it was still marching to the beat of its own drum. Sure, the underdog competition story has been told a million times in different ways – from team sports to singing competitions – though, this movie managed to find a seldom used niche of that genre.

I think I’ve said it before – I love Brendan Fraser (The Last Time, Standoff, The Nut Job). He has a remarkable ability to blend goofy with sincerity. Though, sometimes his roles go way over the top on the goofy side until sometimes it’s a bit ridiculous. This is not the case here. There’s a good balance with his character between the immature humor and a sizable dose of wisdom.

Alex Wolff (The Naked Brothers Band, The Sitter, Coming Through the Rye) was a brilliant straight-man for this film. His delivery was so deadpan; it was beautiful. I haven’t seen any of his other work, but I am now inclined to look something else up – just to see how he handles a different type of role.

I think this movie has a lot to offer, is highly enjoyable, and I’d gladly recommend it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 24%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 29%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score2.5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 4/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score4/5

P.S. A small scene during the credits.

Movie Trailer: