Earthquake Bird

Earthquake Bird (2019)

An enigmatic translator with a dark past is brought in for questioning after an ex-pat friend, who came between her and her photographer boyfriend, ends up missing and presumed dead.

Director: Wash Westmoreland
Stars:  Alicia VikanderKiki SukezaneKenichi Masuda

*Spoilers*

This is a film that should have been so much better. The premise is actually pretty fantastic and I was well up for an ex-pat in Japan murder mystery – unfortunately it does fall a little flat. I don’t think it’s really anyone’s fault – the central performances are fine – the set pieces are lovely and Japan continues to be utterly beautiful.

The landscapes here seem a little more subdued than they usually appear on film. Sure we get some neon lit karaoke bars but for the most part the backgrounds are low key and functional, the apartments no frills. I think you could probably say the same about the characters.

We centre around translator Lucy Fly (Vikander) who begins a relationship with local photographer Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi). Things are fine enough until Lucy starts to show signs of suspicion, breaking into Teiji’s apartment and going through his things. When she finds a file of photographs of his old girlfriend, she torments herself with questions about their relationship.

These feelings of jealousy are exacerbated further when she meets Lily (Riley Keough), a young American woman. When she is persuaded to help Lily find an apartment, the trio grow closer and Lucy is not amused to note that her new friend and boyfriend appear to be attracted to each other. When she shows her jealous side, Teiji encourages it because she is his “girlfriend, after all”.

Lucy is should be said is rather a buttoned up person and at times, and as we learn, an unreliable narrator. That means that the whole sorry tale as it unravels might not even be the truth and we never really know whether we can trust her version of events. The story is unpacked across two timelines, the ‘present’ (e.g. Lucy being interrogated by police who have found the remains of a woman who may or may not be Lily) – and flashback, in which we are party to the development of this awkward love triangle.

The main question is: is Lily dead and did Lucy do it? 

This does go on quite a big longer than necessary but there are some nice moments. I enjoy the concept of blame and responsibility – and as I mentioned, I really love how late 80’ Japan looks. There’s also a very shocking scene involving a freshly waxed staircase that I can’t get out of my head – so this is probably memorable for the wrong reasons.

3/5

What are you watching?

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

This week’s pick is based on the classic novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson. Yet another unread book that lives on my shelf. Maybe I’ll make time for it now because I feel it will probably pad out a lot of the characterisation.

Still, this is the perfect kind of movie to enjoy under a blanket on a Sunday afternoon with lashings of tea and buttery toast.

Merricat, Constance and their Uncle Julian live in isolation after experiencing a family tragedy six years earlier. When cousin Charles arrives to steal the family fortune, he also threatens a dark secret they’ve been hiding.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

*Spoilers*

My Review

Merricat and Constance Blackwood live on the family estate with their ailing uncle Julian (Glover). Constance (Daddario) has been a shut-in for the last six years after being tried and acquitted of her parents’ murders. Merricat (Farmiga) walks down into the village only on Tuesdays to get the groceries and has to put up with all the abuse leveled at the Blackwood family by the locals.

Constance does have one friend outside the family, a girl called Helen who is trying to persuade her to return to society. Merricat is terrified of this happening and uses magic protection spells around the grounds to keep her sister safe. When she feels her sister bending to Helen’s will, she doubles down on the witchery. Good girl.

MC is must be said is 18 but much more childlike than her years. She’s intrigued by plant life and never smiles while her sister is practically a Stepford, baking pies in pretty dresses.

Things are thrown off kilter one Thursday when Merricat is sent into the village unexpectedly. She’s flustered at the break in routine, has no time to prepare her magic and on her return finds her protective articles have been unearthed. Worse, their cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) has come to stay.

Charles has his eye on Constance but more so the family fortune. So begins his charm offensive as he woos our lovely Constance, who is flattered by his attention and quickly falls for his promise of a happy life together.

Merricat fucking hates him though and refuses to speak to him properly. Behind the scenes Charles is a dick to Uncle Julian and tries to get MC is trouble for all the eccentric little things she does (such as burying expensive heirlooms in the garden). In retaliation, she messes with his shit and tells him to leave.

This cat and mouse game has to come to a head eventually and does when the pair have an almighty row at the dinner table. Charles drags Merricat from the room and up the stairs, threatening to beat her arse while “Connie” stands by and does nothing.

She’s saved by the accidental fire she’s set in Charles’ room though. In the ensuing kerfuffle, Julian dies of smoke inhalation and the house is ransacked by the villagers eager to watch it burn. The girls’ are about to be seriously attacked when they are rescued by Helen’s husband. For their own personal safety they spend the night together in the woods, only returning to the house in the morning.

As they survey the damage, dastardly Charles returns still keen on whisking Constance away. Will she go? Furthermore, what will become of the sisters and honestly, why is Meercat Merricat so protective and clingy towards big sis?

It seems there may be secrets in their past…

My Comments

I liked this story well enough. The movie looks great and I really appreciate the reveal at the end. It’s a bittersweet ending perhaps, in that the sisters can only really be free together in their crumbling home but it’s also feminist af.

Fuck you, Charles and your beautiful body and promises of trips to Europe, you could never sever sisterly ties. Maybe it’s not healthy but, oh well.

I drifted off a couple of times watching this but I loved Merricat’s personal brand of weirdness.

I don’t know how faithfully it sticks to the novel but I suspect probably quite well. Although this might not change my life, I am always going to be here for spooky old houses and dark family secrets.

Film details:

Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Crispin Glover
Director: Stacie Passon
Year: 2019
IMDB Rating: 5.6/10
My Rating: 3.5/5

What does my soul sister Jill think of WHALITC? Would she leave it to fall down on its own or relax into its burnt down chic? You can read her decidely more nuanced review here.

Four Films, One Week

Last week was a busy movie week for me and I managed to fit in not one, not two but four films, all of which were little bangers. Not a turkey amoung them which is nice to report. One of them may even qualify for my Top Three of the year.

I’m being a little lazy reviewing them all in one post but this Blogtober has been quite movie heavy in itself and I’d like to write about some other stuff if I can. So here goes:


Ad Astra

Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

I was surprised at my strong reaction to this movie. I really loved it – and space isn’t really my thing, unless Ripley is running around in it. It’s very beautiful to look at, reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey (incidentally, one of my father’s favourite movies) and I really responded to the daddy issues at the core of Roy’s story.

It is a very long film and it does concentrate a lot on Brad Pitt’s beautiful mug – so I can understand why a lot of reviews have not been kind. I was suitably gripped though, curious to find out if Roy would find his father and what the fuck had been going up there on Jupiter. Maybe not for everyone but I started my movie week on a high, frankly.

Film details: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth NeggaJames Gray
IMDB Rating: 7/10 • My Rating: 4.5/5


The Goldfinch

A boy in New York is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Another cracker, this one adapted from the novel of the same name by Donna Tartt. The very same novel that’s been sitting on my shelf for three years, completely untouched.

I found this one pretty interesting with a stellar cast, including Kidman, Sarah Paulson and the beautiful Jeffrey Wright – but I think it belongs to the kid actors. Fegley is really compelling to watch while Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard brings the cool humour – and simultaneously reminds me of my step son, which makes me warm to him even more.

The story itself is a sad one but trauma’s never looked so good against the stunning backdrop of NYC/Amsterdam/uh, Nevada – I’m looking forward to finally picking up the book to compare the two.

Film details: Oakes Fegley, Ansel Elgort, Nicole KidmanJohn Crowley
IMDB Rating: 6.3/10 • My Rating: 4/5

Joker

In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: “The Joker”

The big boy of the list and probably the most controversial film of the year, for good reason. Honestly, it’s not often a film lives up to hype but this is a masterpiece. Obviously Phoenix brings his A game to the role but more than that he physically inhabits it – and I’m afraid there isn’t a moment I don’t feel sympathy for poor Arthur Fleck. Which in turn leaves me deeply conflicted.

Maybe I will branch off with a separate full review but really I’ve spoken about it so much already and I don’t think there’s much more I can bring to the table in terms of opinion. If you haven’t already, just watch the shit out of it. Please.

Film details: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie BeetzTodd Phillips
IMDB Rating: 9/10 • My Rating: 4.5/5

Judy

Legendary performer Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts.

*Minor spoilers*

Focusing on some of Garland’s lesser known history (to me anyway), Judy is a snapshot of her time in London, near destitute and struggling to cope with the demands of single-motherhood.

I grew up with Judy very firmly in my heart so this was a real treat for me. Zellweger absolutely smashes the role and honestly, I wasn’t expecting her to be this good. When she sung THAT song at the end I completely lost it. Like A Star is Born (2018) lost it. It’s very sad and the damage done to Judy by MGM and its studio head Louis. B. Mayer is shocking – not as shocking a losing the woman herself just six months after these concerts ended, aged 47.

Beyond SOTR, my favourite part is when Judy goes home with her superfans, two lovely gay gentlemen. When she sings Get Happy to Dan (Andy Nyman), that was my cue.

Lovely.

Film details: Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn WittrockRupert Goold
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10 • My Rating: 4/5

What are you watching?

St. Agatha, or: It’s Nun of Your Business

You know what time it is over here on the ol’ Blog Collab, it hardly needs any more introduction. But still – welcome to Horror Month.

We’re starting with a much loved but not saturated enough subgenre: of the bad nun variety. There’s lots of religious iconography to feast on here, all reminiscent of my Roman Catholic school upbringing*. Suddenly Sister Ursula and her extra long metal ruler don’t seem so bad.

In the 1950s in small-town Georgia, a pregnant young woman named Agatha seeks refuge in a convent.

St. Agatha

*Spoilers*

My Review

Mary is a young girl accidentally knocked up by her musician boyfriend. She may be a wayward young filly but her priorities are in the right place: she’s saving up to rescue her little brother from their miserable home life. Dad is an abusive bastard and their mother is long gone.

Mary and boyf don’t make their living in the most honest ways but they need to get out fast, so fuck it. Alas tragedy strikes one day while they’re babysitting the brother and their plan of a happier future is scuppered forever. Step in a kindly nun with a professional business card, promising to look after her from here.

Never trust a nun with a business card, babe.

When Mary arrives at the nun run shelter, things seem cool for a hot minute but there are some very strange girls already in situ, including Paula, Doris and Sarah. The nuns aren’t exactly what you’d call fluffy types but they assure Mary she can leave anytime she likes. Hmm.


Quickly it becomes apparent that something isn’t right here (oh baby, baby) and the girls are more or less tortured by the sadistic nuns (duh). There are some incredibly gross moments that I can’t even mention without wanting to hurl. The nuns dose the girls up with weird medicines to keep their babies safe – because the babes are the most important thing – and they also forbid the girls to speak to each other. Not all the guests are preggo, some of them were and have lost their babies, or have stayed on at the shelter as staff members. Looking at you, creepy Paula.

Mary becomes increasingly rebellious when she learns she can’t just leave and this leads to punishments that supposedly match the crimes, such as an extended stay in a sealed coffin. Mary is stripped of her given name “because she doesn’t deserve it” and renamed Agatha by Mother Superior. And Sarah is horrifically punished for talking too much.

Meanwhile, Mary/Agatha uncovers the truth about the child Sarah supposedly ‘lost’ and also an even wider spread scam that the nuns are all in on. Which explains all the generous cash donations coming from the outside. But rather than get shirty about Agatha’s discover, Mother tries to recruit her into the game.

What’s a girl with limited options to do?

My Comments

Well this film feels overlong but it’s not too bad. As I type this, I realise I’ve already forgotten the ending but there are some quite interesting moments of horror: e.g. death by umbilical cord further compounding the close relationship between new life and death.

The ‘tongue’ scene is naaaaaasty but there are worse, in particular the scene I won’t name and really anything vaguely churchy is already creepy by default, isn’t it?

I do find the motivation of the nuns quite flimsy, it’s a lot to be doing for a bit of money to keep a poxy shelter running but okay. Although I did find it quite delicious how quickly all the nuns turned on each other?

Loyalty? No, nun.

There are worse ways to start Horror Month to be honest than in the company of Mother Superior and her girl gang.

Film details:

Starring: Sabrina Kern, Carolyn Hennesy, Courtney Halverson
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Year: 2018
IMDB Rating: 5.2/10
My Rating: 3/5

What does my holy angel think of St. Agatha? Would she adopt it out to the highest bidder or cut it in on the deal? Find out here.

*I’m not Catholic, I was one of the charity cases taken in by the school, relax.

The Girl Before You

She was his. She was perfect. And then, she was gone.

Alice Bell has always had a bee in her bonnet about her husband’s past. She doesn’t know it all but catches snippets here and there, about his reputation at University where they met and the few extra-marital dalliances he’s had since they married. Ones she has so far chosen to overlook.

On a train one evening from Edinburgh back to London, Alice swears she locks eyes with a girl from their past – Ruth, who went missing, presumed drowned at university over fifteen years previously. When she mentions it to George, he brushes it off and she’s not convinced he didn’t know her better than he’s claiming. Subsequently, she has no choice but to keep digging for the truth. Wouldn’t we all?

Is it possible that beautiful, vibrant Ruth is still alive and not dead as everyone assumed? 

The Girl Before You unpacks the truth bit by bit, focusing on newly pregnant Alice as she becomes a super sleuth, reaching out to Ruth’s younger sister Naomi, who has never stopped hoping that her sister will one day return. As Alice gets warmer on the case of Ruth, she’s left cold by the things she’s learning about her own husband. Will life ever be the same again? 

‘The new GIRL ON THE TRAIN’ Observer

This book is right up my street and I devoured it in one day. It’s like crack, actually impossible to stop dipping into whenever you can get away with it. It was the perfect Bank Holiday read and I feel a little bit closer to it somehow because Nicola Rayner is a good friend’s sister in law. The writing flows wonderfully and the back and forth between female perspectives, all women who knew Ruth, doesn’t grate as much as it has in other books. I sometimes feel cheated by this device when I love one or two of the characters and don’t care about another, but all three are sympathetic and fleshed out enough to feel real.

It also looks at some very real and very relevant subject matter, including gas lighting and sexual coercion/assault which isn’t easy to read but opens up some interesting dialogue between some of the characters. In my opinion it’s better than GOTT and is definitely on par with Apple Tree Yard. If you liked either of those I think you’ll be very much into this little banger. 

I can’t wait for Nicola’s next book.

Book details:

The Girl Before You
Publisher: Avon (22 Aug. 2019)
ISBN-10: 0008332738
ISBN-13: 978-0008332730
Bought new paperback for myself

What are you reading?

 

Elizabeth Harvest

Netflix seems to be a hot bed for fucked up sci-fi/horror and I love finding the diamonds in the rough. This is more cubic zirconia than diamond sure, but it still has a certain shine.

Elizabeth Harvest

A brilliant man marries a beautiful woman and shows her his home, stating that it’s all hers – except a room she can’t enter…

*Minor spoilers*

My Review

Elizabeth (Lee) has just married the brilliant (and very rich) Henry (Hinds). The happy couple have just returned to his impressive home and Henry gives his lovely young wife the full tour. Everything in the home is hers for the taking except for one room, which she is forbidden to enter. So far so Bluebeard, eh?

As Elizabeth acclimatises to her new environment, including Henry’s spiky assistant Claire (Gugino) and blind Oliver (Matthew Beard), her husband is called away on unavoidable business. What’s a girl to do when she’s home alone and bored out of her mind? You got it.

But Elizabeth’s snooping lands her in hot water and so begins a horrific cycle of marriage, sex and murder as Henry deals with his duplicitous wife/wives. Can the next Elizabeth break the pattern by fighting back? Whaaaat?

My Comments

I’m trying so hard not give the game away but it’s all about cloning. Henry and Claire have been working for years on a way to bring back Henry’s late wife who died in childbirth and had a rare generic condition.

After multiple attempts, most of which were not a success, Henry has grown tired of the project and his (somewhat) noble motivations have take a sinister turn. In short, he’s getting a kick out of reliving his wedding night and then murdering his new wife, over and over.

Once Claire realises this, even her devotion to Henry is shaken while there’s a terrible history between Oliver and Henry. This entire back story is uncovered by Elizabeth #5 who is guided to Claire’s secret diary by Oliver, who is also after some information from within its pages. Is he who he thinks he is?

#5 is shocked to learn the truth but hasn’t much time to digest it when Elizabeth #6 (the last Elizabeth from a batch of six) wakes up. Shit, son.

I liked this actually. I had no idea what it would entail but it has me at its premise. The setting is cold yet glamorous and from the get go Henry is not to be trusted. He’s already icky by default for having such a young, hot wife and referring to her as a ‘good girl’.

You need to suspend your disbelief to stomach pretty much all of it but it was kind of cool. I really like Abbey Lee, who always plays the sexy ingenue but brought a vulnerability (and subsequent strength) to what could have been a pretty 2D part.

It’s all fucking creepy though. Imagine six copies of you? Available on UK Netflix if you fancy it.

Film details:

Starring: Abbey Lee, Ciarán Hinds, Carla Gugino
Director: Sebastian Gutierrez
Year: 2018
IMDB Rating: 5.7/10
My Rating:
3/5

What are you watching?

Secret Obsession, or: Why Learning Photoshop Could Come in Handy Later

This week’s pick and the last in our fuck-ups month has thrown up A LOT of questions.

Recuperating from trauma, Jennifer remains in danger as she returns to a life she doesn’t remember.

Brenda SongMike VogelDennis Haysbert

*Spoilers galore*

On one hand this film is quite the waste of space and I’ve seen it twice now. On the other, it’s exactly the kind of movie Jill and I enjoy snarking about. It’s pure unadulterated trash and I don’t regret any of it, even if I’m still scratching my head about some quite major plot points.

Jennifer Williams (Song) is hit by a car and injured horribly after she is chased by a mystery psychopath in the rain late one night. Her head injury is so severe that she doesn’t remember much about the night or the last few years of her life. This is a bit of a bummer since she’s just got married to attentive husband Russell (Mike Vogel). Via the power of a well organised photo system and some adorable anecdotes, Russell is able to fill in some of the blanks – and Jen is relieved to learn how happy they were/are.

After a brief stint in the hospital – or maybe not that brief since there’s time for a ‘healing’ montage – Jennifer is released. Russell takes her home to their lovely house in the mountains and everything is perfect. The thing is, it is kind of perfect, with Jennifer’s every want and need taken care of. Odd then that she isn’t quite as relaxed as she should be in her own home (well maybe not) but as we all would, she starts snooping to try and remember anything she can about her own life. Hint: I bet his password is CreepyBastard69.

There are also a couple of additional flies in the perfect life ointment, including sexy Detective Frank Page (Haysbert) who, as a seasoned member of the po-po can smell a rat a mile off. When he questions a couple of witnesses from Jennifer’s bad night, he starts to piece together a worrying picture… There’s no freaking way all is as it seems.

And who’s the (also quite fine) dark-haired bloke who keeps popping up at the police station, hospital, everywhere? The sinister music that plays with his every appearance would have us believe he knows more than he’s letting on about Jennifer’s accident. But what?

Meanwhile, Jen learns her parents were killed in a fire and that she quit her job before the wedding, so the lovebirds can start a family. When she ponders where her friends and her phone are, Russell tells her her phone was lost the night she was attacked but he’ll get her a new one. Later, he reminds her there’s no phone service in the mountains – and that is the exact moment I would have left his sorry arse. You know, if I wasn’t walking painfully on a broken leg, with no money, no car and severe amnesia.

I’ll come back to this later but it soon becomes clear that there’s something rotten about Russell (I clocked it in the first ten minute) and this is only reinforced when he goes after the mysterious dark-haired bloke and kills him. When Jennifer wakes in the night, she witnesses her beau burying something in the garden. Clue, love: he’s not tending to his prize vegetable patch.

I don’t know how many red flags this girl needs but she is vulnerable so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Little by little she witnesses chinks in Russell’s nice guy armor, not least when he has a go at her for not wanting to fuck him, the selfish bitch. It is hard to watch Jennifer be gas lit by this sleazy fuck – and I spent a good deal of time shouting at the screen.

Luckily, Frank is a dog with a bone and he’s busy beavering away behind the scenes, finding out exactly who Russell is. He also uncovers the mystery of what happened to Jennifer’s parents – and to her real husband. Frank, it turns out has a tragic backstory of his own (because of course he does) which makes him even more determined to rescue Jennifer.

There’s a very sad segment in which he carefully picks out a birthday gift for his daughter who went missing years previously. Honestly though, this is meant to add depth to his character but it was cliché and pretty unnecessary. Anywho – both Frank and Jen are now on the same page – all they’ve got to do is find each other, right?

Well, I’ll let you find out how that works out but there aren’t many surprises here. Twitter seems to be awash with people left terrified by this movie but it’s very by the numbers and not very scary. I bloody love dramas about stalkers though, may I also recommend My Teacher, My Obsession?

What doesn’t work for me is how opportunistic Russell is. I mean, *SPOILER* but Russell is the killer and not Jennifer’s husband, just a lowly work colleague with an all-encompassing crush. After killing Jen’s husband he went after the woman herself – only for her to get herself run over. Which opened up a whole new world of opportunity for him. What I don’t get is how quickly he put all the photos together to build a picture of their rich relationship history – those are some skills.

Also, dark-haired dude? His story arc comes to nothing. He’s a witness to the accident but what’s his motivation to follow Jen around and be all suspicious about Russell? He’s not even a friend from their previous lives! I don’t get it at all. (Perhaps my film bud will be able to tell me more).

Also, how long have Jennifer’s parents been lying there dead? Didn’t anyone miss them both?

Brenda Song isn’t terrible and she’s nice to look at but really Dennis Haysbert is the glue. The moral of the story is: trust no man and if you can, go home with the nice blonde nurse instead.

Film details:

Secret Obsession
Year: 2019
Director: Peter Sullivan
IMDB Rating: 4.3/10
My Rating: 2/5

What does my own secret obsession think of this straight to video nightmare? Would she take advantage of its memory loss or bury it six feet under? Find out here.

Party Hard, Die Young

Teens in swimwear being slaughtered willy-nilly? Groundbreaking.

It’s supposed to be the “party of their lives.” But for Julia and her friends their graduation trip turns into a horror trip, from which not everyone will return.

The last party of your life.

Ugh. I don’t know how 90 minutes of slasheriffic action can be so boring but here we are. This Austrian whodunnit/teen horror doesn’t reinvent the wheel or even do much to entertain but it sure has some creative deaths and a truly heartbreaking (and relevant) motive at the heart of it.

Best friends Julia (Elisabeth Wabitsch) and Jessica (Antonia Moretti) are on their way to Croatia to celebrate their graduation. Along with their mostly douche-y crew, the pair intend to party like it’s 1999 before embarking on their new life together in Vienna. Oh, except Julia has secretly accepted a place at uni in Munich and hasn’t told Jessica yet.

Off their tits on stolen drugs, the girls argue when Jessica accidentally learns the truth – courtesy of a loose lipped classmate – and the pair are separated. Julia winds up slumped in the woods and has a vision of her friend being attacked by a man in a smiley face mask. The next morning she sobers up and is relieved to find Jessica back where she belongs, blowing chunks in their hotel room en suite. Except, the girl isn’t Jessica but another friend and Jess is nowhere to be found.

Remembering her vision, Julia and a male friend go looking for Jessica in the woods – to no avail. Later one of the other girls receives a text from Jessica saying she’s gone off with some dude and is absolutely fine, providing she doesn’t run out of condoms. Safety first and all that. Julia isn’t exactly convinced though and when she receives a Snapchat photo of Jessica with a cross through her face, she knows something is rotten in Denmark. Sorry, Croatia.

One by one the group are separated by a mystery killer and are knocked off one by one in grotesque but fun ways.

As with many films, all the male characters look incredibly similar to the point that I could barely tell them apart. In the end it doesn’t really matter. At the climax, after the usual cat and mouse games, we learn who the killer is and why he’s doing all this. It turns out that Julia and her dickhead buddies hosted a party a few years back and something unforgivable was done to one of their classmates.

*TW: sexual assault/suicide*

I won’t sugar-coat it: their shy virgin friend was raped by one or more of the dudes and killed herself shortly afterwards. The mystery murderer then – no surprise – is… her pissed off big brother. You can’t really fault his desire for revenge but honestly, I just wish he’d been quicker to get to the point.

All these kids are the worst and they all have horrible names, like Cheesy and Bogi. The fact that they are awful teen archetypes means that we don’t give two hoots about them as they are bumped off. Julia as the potential final girl doesn’t work either as she’s as culpable for what happened as anyone and refuses to take responsibility. I definitely found myself rooting for Mr Smiley Face and I don’t think that was supposed to be the case.

So yeah, this isn’t the best. There are many false accusations thrown around, lots of very wrong conclusions jumped to and the festival organisers give zero fucks about bad publicity or human life. Perhaps that’s the most accurate thing about it.

This is by the by, but there’s also some curious treatment of the token fat characters that bugged me. A strange sideline sees unskinny Carmen (Chantal Pausch) win a bikini contest and get crowned queen (of what I’m not sure). I think it’s supposed to be empowering but Carmen is later torn down several times for being too cocky. It’s almost as if, as larger woman she is worth less and there should be grateful for her prize. Later, a chubby dude is also killed horribly and nobody cares or bothers to look for him. Yet again little care or respect for the chunkier kids.

The only thing I take from Party Hard, Die Young (apart from the exquisite title), is the wonderful knowledge that I never have to ‘party hard’ again if I don’t want to. Fuck being around that many people.

Film details:

Party Hard, Die Young
Year: 2018
Director: Dominik Hartl
IMDB Rating: 6.2/10
My Rating: 2.5/5

What are you watching?

Ma

A lonely woman befriends a group of teenagers and decides to let them party at her house. Just when the kids think their luck couldn’t get any better, things start happening that make them question the intention of their host.

Octavia SpencerDiana SilversJuliette Lewis

Jesus. I think the main thing I took away from this film is that Ma and I ain’t that different. Watching her hang out with actual teenagers in her basement is an accurate depiction of my social life. LOL.

Sure, I’m joshing but I do feel for our protagonist/antagonist as we slowly learn more about the humiliation that leads her to being this… unconventional. School age kids are the cruellest, man and I wouldn’t go back for all the money (and tea) in China.

Before we get to Ma, let’s start at the beginning. Maggie Thompson (Silvers) and her mother Erica (the legend Juliette Lewis) move back to Erica’s small hometown in Ohio. Erica has a job at the local casino while Maggie attends the very same high school her mother did.

On her first day, Maggie befriends a group; Andy, Haley, Chaz and Darrell, who invite her to a party. On their first outing together, the gang meet veterinary technician Sue Ann (Spencer) outside the liquor store and persuade her to pick them up some booze. All is fine for the kids until the po po turns up to where they’re hanging out.

It seems Andy’s dad Ben has found out about the drinking and sends an officer to arrest his son. Ben runs a successful security business in town but due to the officer’s relationship to Andy’s Dad (he thinks he’s a dick), he lets the kids off. All this is convenient for Sue Ann though as now the kids don’t have a drinking spot and when they approach her for more supplies a few days later, she leads them to her place.

Here she tells the kids they can more or less do what they want in her basement as long as they a) don’t take the Lord’s name in vain and b) NEVER go upstairs. Ooooooh!

When Sue Ann, now known as ‘Ma’, gets a little too into her new friends and their lives, they start to back off. What’s her agenda? And what’s on her mind when she drifts off every now and again into a deep reverie?

Well! There’s a lot going on beneath the surface and behind closed doors. Spencer’s performance is suitably unhinged and I loved every moment she was on the screen. She has the range to flip flop from lovely (and relatively in control) to maniacal in a heartbeat. It’s also so fricking refreshing to have a plus-size lead and a WOC at that. The role of Ma is delicious and it suits Spencer so well.

Booksmart’s Diana Silvers is good as Maggie and of course it’s always amazing to see Juliette Lewis on screen.

While Ma’s behaviour grows increasingly erratic and bizarre, we learn more about what has brought us here and needless to say, things are about to get real for a couple of the characters. Whether or not the punishments fit the crime is up to you to decide but I think I’m with Ma.

I have one question though – and *Spoiler* – Ma dispatches with someone at one point – and nobody ever refers to it again. Even though it’s done in broad daylight and no effort is made to cover it up. Eh?

I enjoyed myself, and laughed and cringed a lot but the truth is, the script is horrible and the film isn’t as good as it could have been, especially given its Oscar-winning lead. And I guessed most of the story a third of the way through.

Film details:

Ma
Year: 2019
Director: Tate Taylor
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
My Rating: 3/5

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Greta

Everyone Needs a Friend.

Greta (2018)

A young woman befriends a lonely widow who’s harboring a dark and deadly agenda toward her.

Starring: Isabelle Huppert • Chloë Grace Moretz • Maika Monroe 

*Minor spoilers*

Bags of fun

Huh. Knowing this is directed by The Crying Game’s Neil Jordan, you would naturally go in expecting a high quality thriller. What you actually get is an enjoyable, yet ultimately empty and forgettable movie with questionable central performances. Which I’m gutted to type, honestly because ever since I saw the trailer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release date.

The premise alone is so intriguing. When nice girl Frances McCullen (Chloe Moretz) finds a handbag on the subway, there’s no question of what she will do. She returns it to its rightful owner, Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert). Greta invites her in for coffee and learning that she is widowed and missing her daughter, who lives in Paris, Frances takes pity on the woman – and a friendship is born.

Grieving for her own mother, who has passed away the previous year, Frances finds a natural connection with Greta. Frances’ BFF Erica (It Follows’ Maika Monroe) warns her that the whole scene is a little bit icky – and moreover, that Frances’ wholesome goodness will result in her being eaten alive by NYC. Frances doesn’t see it like that… until she discovers some new (and sinister) information about her new friend.

What on earth is Greta’s game and what does she want from Frances?

Chink chink motherfucker

Needless to say this is an intense stalker story that culminates in a nasty situation. But why? This is my issue with the story. We learn via a secondary source (played by Zawe Ashton), that things aren’t as they seem, particularly regarding the relationship between Greta and her daughter. There’s a vague hint at what G might be hiding but there’s no exploration of why she is what she is. And the climax is cool and all but it’s also shaky and predictable.

I was expecting so much more. I thought I’d be blown away by a motive I’d never even considered, with twists and turns I couldn’t imagine. Instead I got several shoddy false starts and a lot of head scratching time. That said, I still enjoyed myself – and while she’s not given that much to do, I liked Erica (when will MM get the consistently great roles she deserves?).

“I loved you in It Follows.”

About those central performances. I mean, c’mon! Huppert is a dream of an actress with a sting in her tail. Her turn in 2016’s Elle was wonderful – I expected more of the same, if not even more unhinged and delicious. Yet her Greta never really gets going in the way I hoped. It’s not a bad performance, it just doesn’t ever gain the momentum you’d expect. She is chic AF though, which is a given.

In turn, lovely Miss Moretz seems to phone her part in. I do find her acting hit or miss at times (even though I like her) but it’s as if she turned up to filming without really reading the script first. However, I can’t really blame the actresses for this, the film just doesn’t pack a punch and they can only do so much.

⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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