Search This Blog

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cindy Prascik's Review of Demon House

Dearest Blog: Today I elected to pass on lackluster offerings at the cinema in favor of Zak Bagans' documentary Demon House.
Spoiler level here will be mild-ish. I'm including some particulars, but nothing that would make it less worth your watching the film yourself.
Renowned paranormal investigator Zak Bagans documents experiences at the famous "demon house" in Gary, Indiana.
Well, dear reader(s), this may be the easiest review I'll ever write. If you're a fan of Zak Bagans and his Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures, you'll likely enjoy this documentary. If you aren't, maybe take a pass. I am a fan, and I was not disappointed.
Demon House is basically an extended Ghost Adventures episode. It's got more swearing (just to let you know we aren't on cable anymore), but is missing GA's most entertaining aspect, Aaron Goodwin. In fact, Goodwin is the only GA principal missing from Demon House, as Billy Tolley and Jay Wasley both make appearances. (Wasley also shares a producer's credit.)
Bagans adopts a morose demeanor throughout, as if to let viewers know he's still carrying the burden of the experience. As does the Travel Channel series, Demon House offers interviews with many who experienced the house's malevolence firsthand; it does not, however, include any first-person accounts from the family that last lived there. Initially, another family member states they will not speak with Bagans because he has been in the house and the demon already may have attached itself to him, but later the film suggests they were simply pirated by a big Hollywood producer who hoped to adapt their story for the big screen. Following Ghost Adventures' model, Demon House features cheesy reenactments and reserves its most shocking bit of evidence for the second act. Several of those involved complain of lingering effects that timing allows them to chalk up to their encounters with the creepy abode.
Demon House is unlikely to change anyone's mind on the paranormal in general or demonic possession in particular. If you are a believer, you will see things as the film intends: something evil was afoot in Gary, Indiana. If you are a skeptic, it's likely you'll think the evidence is a scam, despite experts' assertations to the contrary. 
Demon House clocks in at 111 minutes and is unrated. It does have a fair few f-bombs, as well as many images and scenarios that will be unsettling to believers or to those who are suggestible. As the film itself warns: "View at your own risk."
Renting Demon House from XFinity On Demand cost me about fifty cents more than I would have paid to see something at my cinema this weekend, and I'm reasonably confident I enjoyed it at least fifty cents' more than I would any of the weekend's new releases. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys (or should they be Wasleys here?), Demon House gets seven.
Until next time...

Friday, March 16, 2018


Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance, Croft embarks on a perilous journey to his last-known destination -- a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. The stakes couldn't be higher as Lara must rely on her sharp mind, blind faith and stubborn spirit to venture into the unknown.

Director: Roar Uthaug

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu,  Kristin Scott Thomas

Release Date: March 16, 2018

Genres: Action, Adventure 

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language

Runtime: 1h 58min


The rebooted Tomb Raider is a solid if paint by the numbers origin story which also makes it one of the better video game adaptations.  Of course that’s hardly high praise since video game adaptations have a fairly terrible track record.  Luckily Norwegian director Roar Uthaug, who directed the impressive 2015 Norwegian disaster film The Wave, gives his film a palpable plus even if the script is fairly basic.  Uthaug delivers some solid action set pieces throughout along with a shipwreck sequence which could serve as a solid test for epilepsy.  Uthaug film feels strangely like a 90’s Michael Bay film if you removed all of Bay’s bombast.  It’s an interesting bit of alchemy that works more often than not.   

Tomb Raider wouldn’t work at all if Alicia Vikander couldn’t pull off the role of Laura Croft which she did incredibly well. For the uninitiated, the video game character was rebooted in 2013 as a younger, more grounded take which serves as the basis for this film. So all the cartoonish proportions of the video game and caricature of Angelina Jolie’s 2001 portrayal are thrown by the wayside for a more realistic and grounded approach which works in the film’s favor.   

Vikander is fully committed to the character and she’s clearly enjoying herself as the heroine.  She pulls off a steady balance of strength while still being green and learning her way.  Outside of her childlike grunts, Vikander is always the best thing on the screen and gives the film its heart.  

The supporting cast though is sadly underused and developed.  Walton Goggins is given one of the most basic villain characters to play which is a shame since Goggins is such an interesting actor.  It’s a fairly large misstep mainly due to the script which doesn’t provide any depth.  Daniel Wu’s character is the very definition of a one dimensional character, sure he does some things during the film but he’s more a function than a full-fledged character.  Dominic West also isn’t given much to do outside of a wear a terrible wig and look slightly confused and nuts.  

Tomb Raider is a perfectly watchable film and fans of the video game series will enjoy seeing certain sequences from the 2013 game lifted and woven into this film’s narrative but it all feels incredibly safe.  The door is left wide open for a sequel should this film prove to be successful, which with Alicia Vikander in the lead isn’t a bad thing.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

April Sokol's Review of A Wrinkle in Time

Movie review: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time is the latest adaptation of the beloved children's book of the same name.

Directed by Ava DuVernay

Starring: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis and Michael Pena

My review:

Before I start writing I feel as though I should introduce you all to the 12 year old version of myself that was. I was awkward. Lonely. Bookish. Isolated. And completely saved by this book. Meg Murray was one of my very first heroes. Ever. So this movie is directed at a very personal area of me. Even with a stern talking own personal expectations for this movie was pretty high. I'm going to do my level best to divorce the movie from the book. But as any avid book lover knows, that is far easier said than done. But here goes:

A Wrinkle in Time is the story of Meg and her little brother Charles Wallace on a quest to locate their missing father. They are guided on their travels out of our known galaxy by 3 celestial beings (Mrs Which, Mrs Whosit and Mrs Who played by Winfrey, Witherspoon and Kaling respectively). The epic quest quickly goes from lighthearted to dangerous as they're forced to confront the growing evil entity known as The It.

Let's get right to it. Is it any good? Well yes, it is. Is it as good as the book? Of course it's not.

We'll get the bad out of the way. All of the goodwill that was built in the 1st and 2nd acts of the movie is lost as the 3rd act slowly careens off the rails. I found the last 30 minutes or so of the movie to move at a snail's pace. The set up for the final showdown between good and evil was laborious. Were the problems so egregious that I ended up hating the final product? No. But it does feel like a sort of almost miss when you step back and examine the final product as a whole.

Let's get back to the good, shall we? The visuals are stunning. Mrs Whosit (Witherspoon) was really the stand out for me. Her perfect amount of whimsy was spot on. I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged I was with the young actress who played Meg (Reid). The success of this movie was always going to rise or fall upon her shoulders. It's a heavy weight for one so young (Reid is only 14 years old). The themes of this movie are timeless and were handled with deft hands. I felt more than once as though Momma Oprah was speaking wisdom directly to the bruised 12 year old child that still lives inside of me. Loving yourself, not in spite of your flaws, but because of them is a wonderful lesson for children and adults alike. Yet DeVernay never allowed this to creep into the saccharin territory of the too sweet.

A Wrinkle in Time clocks in at 2 hours and is rated PG for thematic elements and peril. I give it a very solid 3 ½ stars out of 5.

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Gringo & The Hurricane Heist

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for the rowdy double-bill of Gringo and The Hurricane Heist.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First on my agenda, Gringo.
Things go south for a pharmaceutical rep when he unwittingly runs afoul of a Mexican crime lord.
Gringo is a darkly funny outing that certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea. Filled with rough language, drug and sexual references, and up-close-and-personal violence, the story is a crazy one, though clever and sometimes more thoughtful than I expected. David Oyelowo (whose name I'll never learn to spell without looking) heads an excellent cast, striking a perfect tone for our confused and terrified titular gringo. The extraordinary Sharlto Copley shines in a small supporting role, but it's Charlize Theron who really steals the show with a sexy, foul-mouthed turn. Gringo is action packed, well crafted, and makes some surprise turns, building to a suitable and satisfying finale. It does suffer some sluggishness, but if sticking with it occasionally feels like work, the payout is worth it.
Gringo clocks in at an efficient 110 minutes and is rated R for "language throughout, violence, and sexual content."
Gringo can be a rough ride at times, but a great cast and solid story make it worth the effort. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Gringo gets seven.
Fangirl points: Alan Ruck! Yul Vazquez! Harry Treadway! A weird-but-awesome flamenco version of the Cure's Just Like Heaven over the end credits!
Next on the docket: The Hurricane Heist.
Thieves plan to use a Category 5 hurricane as cover for their attempt to steal $600 million from a US Treasury vault.
The Hurricane Heist is that rare picture that is 100% as advertised. It is, in truth, a very stupid movie; however, if you leave disappointed, it can only be due to unreasonable expectations. While it is neither as fun as Geostorm, nor as irrefutably awesome as Den of Thieves, the Hurricane Heist is just wacky enough to get away with its implausible premise and D-list cast. The obvious selling feature for this sort of film is its disaster effects, and here the quality ranges all the way from "pretty sweet" to "stuck in 1939 with The Wizard of Oz." Suffice to say the cast isn't exactly loaded with talent, and it doesn't need to be. True Blood got me used to Aussie Ryan Kwanten speaking with a southern drawl, but I was jarred incessantly by that sound coming out of Toby Kebbell's face. "Starring Maggie Grace" usually means a hard pass from me, so it's no surprise that it was difficult for me to get past her in the lead. The action is wild and the story is as goofy as you'd expect, but--while the movie definitely doesn't take itself too seriously--it's missing a certain element of fun that its wacky premise should have guaranteed.
The Hurricane Heist runs 102 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of gun violence, action, destruction, language, and some suggestive material."
The Hurricane Heist is a passable couple hours of witless entertainment for those slow, waning weeks of winter. (Also I kept thinking of Justin Timberlake in The Social Network: “Drop the ‘the;’ just ‘Hurricane Heist.’ It’s cleaner.”) 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, the Hurricane Heist gets four.
Until next time...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...