‘Get Out’: Run boy run!

Posted in drama, horror, Movies, suspense, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Jordan Peele

Studio: Blumhouse Pictures

MPAA Rating: R

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

We know director Jordan Peele, famous for the Key and Peele comedy duo among other things, has successfully directed other movies, but those were Comedies. So when word came out he was doing a Horror film, plenty of us fans of the genre were nervous about what it could mean. Turns out, we had absolutely nothing to worry about – Peele’s vision of a relevant to black folks Horror movie has all the self-aware snark and clever storytelling of Tales from the Hood, and I personally adored that movie. Yes, we know race will certainly be a large part of the story here, the trailer made that quite clear. But racial motivations are only half the story, while the other half is creepy as hell, and that’s what makes it a Horror movie.

Spoilers are never just black and white!

We meet Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a stoic young black man who happens to be a fairly good photographer, with prints of his work all over his nicely furnished if tiny apartment, and his bubbly white girl girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). Chris has a friend, Rod (Lil Rel Howery), who works for the airport TSA and is the standard co-pilot type friend in any buddy-cop movie, and their conversations over the phone are the few bright spots in a dark suspenseful movie. Chris lost his mother at a very young age and is also attempting to quit smoking, all things we learn at a rapid clip once the decision has been made to grudgingly attend Rose’s families gathering at the Armitage estate out in the middle of nowheresville.

On the way there, a mighty strange encounter with a deer that I swear was thrown at their car rather than being simply struck down by it, has Chris and Rose on edge. Meeting the self-proclaimed most non-racist Dad (Bradley Whitford) around, who would’ve by his own admission gotten Obama on a third term if he could’ve, doesn’t much help. Nor does being unnerved by psychiatrist Moms (Catherine Keener) unsettling talk of hypnosis, quitting smoking, and the sound of that damned spoon hitting the china, over and over and over. Add in the psychotic ginger of a brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) and we’ve already got a full cracker jack house.

A nighttime visit with Mom after an unsettling dream and an aborted attempt at a snuck cigarette doesn’t help Chris one bit, unless we consider his ability to be tossed down the rabbit hole by an elderly white woman fairly easily to be a good thing.

Then of course after some very weak protestations of Rose’s part, it turns out this is the weekend of the entire Armitage clan get-together, some of them rather removed, but somehow all connected in some secret way. The older white folks show up and wittingly or not, manage to repeatedly insult Chris as being the only black person there that isn’t a servant. The maidservant and the gardener, they’re both black, but they act very oddly towards Chris, especially when he starts asking questions.

Chris wanders the grounds and dutifully talks with the guests, always stoic and at least polite, as the crazy white folk continue to demean his person and Rose is of little help. We met the blind art curator, Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), who claims to know of and love Chris’ picture work, and the two of them seem to have the only really-real conversation out of anyone visiting from the Armitage clan. Chris declines to talk to really anyone else, and continually being unnerved by it all, disappears to go be with Rose. Which is good, because Dad has declared its time for the Armitage family games, beginning with bingo!

That’s no version of bingo I’ve ever played, at any rate. A mostly-silent auction is being held, and as we’ve already gathered from the trailer, Chris is the most likely prize. But why? The big grand assumption here is that these crazy elderly white folks with far too much money and time on their hands are going to participate in the greatest game, the cleverest hunt there is – that of man. But how on earth are these so-much-older white peoples planning on doing that? How is a blind man supposed to hunt anything? Turns out, the Armitage clan actually has something much worse in mind for Chris.

I won’t give the ending away, or even the real reason for the Armitage clan auctioning off Chris, but I will leave it with an interesting thought exercise to ponder. The fact that all these people, Chris and those chosen before him, were black, seems to be clear racism, yes, but in a kind of dastardly complimentary way. Like thoroughbred horses, these fine chosen black peoples have the right physical and occasionally psychological properties, that the Armitage clan is willing to pay a handsome sum of money for.

While yes, the movie is mildly predictable to me, admittedly I watch a lot of Horror movies, so that’s kind of to be expected. Peele has somehow mastered the fine tightrope line between racial tension and everybody-fears-something humanity, and manages to keep that creepy vibe throughout the film. Kaluuya delivers a masterful performance as Chris, and those acting around him, black or white or whatever else, give their roles that extra pinch of believability that makes it convincing that it all could actually happen, even tomorrow.

Run along with Chris to see Get Out, in theaters now!

Spotlight on Latino Horror presents Ataud Blanco El Juego Diabolico (White Coffin)

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by aliciamovie

Ataud-blanco

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Daniel de la Vega

Studio: Del Toro Films

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

In the simplest of terms, it is another “save my child at any cost” movie, with a mysterious ritual of sacrifice and some ghostly vengeance tossed in for good measure. The premise, of a mother desperate to save her daughter from some kind of ritual sacrifice, is a good start, but is itself sacrificed for action and driving scenes. The explanatory paragraph for the movie gives very little away, so sadly I’m going to have to spoil a good deal of the plot as we plow ahead.

Spoilers come from all kinds of coffins!

So Virginia (Julieta Cardinali) appears to have up and absconded with her daughter Rebecca, without the consent of her apparently-ex-husband, and the two of them are driving along out in the middle of nowheresville when they inevitably experience a flat tire. This is where we meet the creepy stranger who was never named in the film (but whose name according to IMDB is Mason) for the first time, he comes striding out of the desert landscape like a mirage to help with the flat tire, I dubbed him the Goad for how he has a tendency to further the plot. After the tire is fixed, Virginia and her daughter take lunch at some roadside diner and there, inevitably, Rebecca (Fiorela Duranda) goes missing.

Another woman in the same roadside diner, who appears to be a schoolteacher with a bunch of elementary school kids on a field trip, she has a student go missing and so she’s running around near Virginia, calling for her wayward child too. Here things begin to get weird and ill-defined, a tilted journey through darkness that seems to indicate a confusing death and rebirth of sorts for poor Virginia. And indeed, when she comes back to the light Mr. Goad (Rafael Ferro) has shown back up and is breathlessly explaining that yes, Virginia is now dead but, being given a temporary reprieve back to the land of the living, she has one chance to go save her daughter: find the white coffin.

But nothing is ever that simple, and Virginia has to go through several hoops in order to find that damnable coffin and stop the ritual sacrifice of her daughter. First is the barn where the actual white coffin is located, but of course the place is guarded by a hammerhead wannabe, and yet another desperate woman, Angela (Elenora Wexler), wanting to claim the coffin to rescue her own child. After the tussle with the weaponized carpenter and the subsequent fight with Angela herself, Angela lets slip that she was apparently the one who killed Virginia, so she might get the white coffin first. And at least in this first round, Angela is in the lead, with Virginia attempting to keep up with her for the net task.

Next to be retrieved according to Mr. Goad is the map, very much on the mind of the priest in the Trinity church. And since Mr. Goad has rather forcibly reminded Virginia that she’s already dead and her time is running out and to be absolutely ruthless to get what she wants, well, nothing so small as a priests refusal is going to stop her now.

Some fighting and confrontation and driving later, the last task is to discover the place where the ritual itself is going to be held, and to get the white coffin there by means fair or foul, whatever it takes. The teachers been dealt with, the rival mom is down and now its up to Virginia to do this last, unthinkable, act, to save her child.

Except Virginia doesn’t actually manage to save her child, nor is she really able to save herself, when all is said and done. The background characters that we’ve been noticing around Virginia as she makes her way from place to place, they’ve come to participate in the ritual of child sacrifice and the ascension of the new Chosen, that poor apparently brainwashed and tattooed little girl, Rebecca. As the occupied white coffin burns the backgrounders chant these odd ritual phrases, and the magic that animated Virginia slips away, leaving us to wonder, did the cycle begin anew?

The trouble is simply that there isn’t enough of anything. Had there been more of a supernatural feel to the ritual plot, or more explanation of what the ritual was meant to accomplish, where the necromancy that animated Virginia came from, or how Mr. Goad or any of the backgrounders made their choices in the first place, or what the hell was up with that white coffin, the film could have been more enjoyable. The washed-out look of the film is fine, intending to impart a kind of Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel I’m guessing. For unknown reasons the film is only an hour and a half long; I’d really like to see an extended version or a full background story script to read at least.

Dig up Ataud Blanco (White Coffin) on Netflix!

‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’: Beware the kitten shark!

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Spoilers totally in the aether!

Welcome to another cheerfully zany and wacky BBC adaptation of a classic Douglas Adams story, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency! Yes there are massive spoilers to follow, but then this is another show where if you talk about one thing, it inevitably leads to another spoiler, just proving that, as they say on the show, everything really is connected! You were warned!

So Todd (Elijah Wood) isn’t having the best life. His bellhop job sucks and he’s about to be fired from it anyway, there is virtually no money to speak of, his sister Amanda (Hannah Marks) has this odd disease and needs fairly constant care, and to top it all off, he just met Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett). After catching a vision of himself in a very odd getup following Gently, Todd gets himself caught up in Dirk’s world of half-baked suppositions, barely understood clues, and connections that are more often than not out of this world!

It takes a good deal of hullaballoo and storytelling frippery to get the explanatory episode, so I’m going to go ahead and broadly spoil as much of it as I can explain. Some years in the past, an inventor, Patrick Spring, made a time machine that actually worked. In fact, it worked a little too blasted well. After encountering different versions of himself from the present-past and the future, our inventor decides to get rid of the time machine, but of course by then its far too late. This odd secret society of folk have discovered that the time machine has other useful properties to explore, and start switching their spirits into other bodies. (This process can be used even on animals, sometimes with interesting magical side effects too, hence the kitten shark..) Lydia Spring (Alison Thornton) is the modern-day heir of our original inventor and the secret society of body-swapping sort-of immortals are after her, and a whole mess ends up with Lydia switching bodies and spirits with her corgi dog. The hunt for Lydia is on, and all perceptions of regular reality must be suspended before we can go on to assist Dirk in his holistic investigation!

Dirk has plenty of secrets and troubles of his own, aside from being unable to fully explain what a “holistic detective” does to Todd, or incapable of fully understanding the impact his presence alone will have on the boring life of the ex-bellhop. Estevez (Neil Brown Jr.) and Zimmerfield (Richard Schiff), Missing Persons cops looking for Lydia too, have taken to following him. Gordon Rimmer (Aaron Douglas), the self-proclaimed leader of the super secret society, has sent beaters after Dirk too. And oh yeah, “holistic assassin” Bart Churlish (Fiona Dourif) and her friendly little hostage Ken (Mpho Koaho), are hunting Dirk Gently for inexplicable reasons too. Meanwhile, the former bodyguard of Lydia’s father, Farah Black (Jade Eshte), is looking for Dirk because she thinks he’ll know how to find Lydia and what might have befallen her. Also the Rowdy 3, a gang of guys with some kind of psychic abilities that the government has been trying to study (along with others, like Dirk himself) are out and about, ready to give spiritual and sometimes physical beatdowns to those who need it the most!

The show itself is incredibly zany, with plenty of nailed British-style cheek, and often tongue-in-cheek humor that, even when put into context with some kind of “okay, maybe that makes sense” explanation, is so wacky one just has to laugh at it. Or scream. Todd sometimes does both, in that memorable Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins turning into his own Gollum style. Fiona Dourif is the daughter of Brad Dourif, known for his own unique style of acting, and she brings the legacy of her fathers distinct madness to the role. Seeing Aaron Douglas as several noticeably different characters in one body is a rare treat. And while the iffy science may not always make sense, like another enduringly famous BBC show, the formation of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency at the end of season one makes the whole weird, wild and wonderful ride one worth taking!

Go back in time with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Season One on BBC America!

‘Beyond’ Finale: Is there Life in the Afterlife?

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So it turns out that, despite being filmed in a much more linear and episodic manner, ‘Beyond’ is a watered-down attempt at the Netflix opus ‘The OA’. We’re dealing with concepts of near-death-experiences or NDEs, life and death and the actual existence of an afterlife, and powers learned from touching the realms of these un-provable concepts. In all cases, it seems, these powers in particular are unstable and unpredictable, but are potentially catastrophic.

Holden Matthews (Burkely Duffield) is no stranger to this concept though, as he fell into a coma as the result of an accident when he was very young, and stayed there for twelve whole years before suddenly, inexplicably, waking. His body was being taken care of in the hospital as best they could, but when he woke Holden experienced no ill affects other than large gaps in his pop culture knowledge and dating experiences, at least at first. Holden begins manifesting what only can be described as otherworldly powers, mostly what looks like telekinetic emotional backlash when he’s scared or livid. But Holden also begins suffering visions, landscapes of ethereal plains that seem familiar and a haunting old man who wants him to harness his powers, both here in the otherworld and out in real life.

Spoilers live in the afterlife too!

We meet Willa (Dilan Gwyn), the enigmatic lover of Holden who has a clear agenda of her own, claiming she was with Holden the entire time he was in his coma, off in this transcendental world they refer to simply as the Realm. Willa’s grandfather, Arthur (Alex Diakun), off in his coma too but with some sort of magical sciencey phone app that allows him to communicate with her, happens to wear the face of the old man that’s been haunting Holden’s visions.

A fair amount of tedious backstory boils down to an interesting conceptual question – is there a real, knowable afterlife? Arthur and certain Isaac Frost (Martin Donovan) desperately wanted to answer this question, after Willa’s mother fell into a coma bringing her into the world. Long after they split over their philosophical differences, Frost used his power and influence to create this kind of death cult called Hollow Sky, while Arthur used one of the coma-inducing machines he built to send himself into the Realm. All this happened quite some time ago, but upon finding Holden and his somehow unique experiences in the Realm and special brain, everyone wants to use Holden for his, or her, own purposes in the here and now.

So what now? Holden is awake and being chased down by the Man in the Yellow Jacket, who technically works for Frost; Holden is dealing with his mom and dad being separated and his younger brother now acting out in college; and the memories of the Realm, which we now understand is more or less the anteroom to the afterlife, are coming on stronger too. Arthur and Willa were training Holden in the Realm, which apparently began to bleed over into the real world once he was awake, and unfortunately that makes him a good target for the Man in the Yellow Jacket and other Hollow Sky cronies. Jeff McArdle (Jeff Pierre), Kevin’s older and much more militaristic brother, is determined to avenge his little brothers murder and save Holden as best he can too.

Much of this is on the surface, and the underlying story of the afterlife question lingers in interesting use of CGI and green-screen effects. During commercial breaks in the show, the cast and crew of Beyond have snippets of effects used on the show, acting tidbits and mini character bios, which does make for interesting viewing but does rather take away from the attempt to build believable wonder in the Realm and the Afterlife inside the show itself. Despite the implausible atmosphere in previous episodes, the finale at least does deliver in a satisfactory manner on that score. With fairly simple concepts and effects reminiscent of the movie Ghost, Beyond brings across a comeuppance to most of the villains and a palatable pause to the good guys that brings approval from many skeptics.

Again like The OA, the show starts with a strong concept and pilot episode, staggers a bit in the middle with some gratuitous storytelling, and finishes with a pretty darned satisfying finale that closed off some major storylines and opened a few new ones for Season Two.

Explore the concept of an Afterlife with Beyond Season One on Freeform!

‘Timeless’ Season One Finale: Protect the Past, Save the Future (of ‘Timeless’)!

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Historical, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So the time machine trope has been kind of done to death at this point. Regardless of whether or not its meant as comedy (see Fox’s new opus, Making History) or a Sci-Fi drama (my current favorites are The Time Machine and Primer) or anything else, all us fans now know the moment anyone busts out a time machine, it’s all downhill from there. Ripples in time, like ripples in a pond, go concentrically out and have a tendency to affect the past, present, and potentially even the future. But who cares! We’re doing it again, and hopefully we will have learned from past – are they past? Future? Alternate past? something – mistakes enough not to repeat them.

We begin with this private industry company, Mason Industries, who made a time machine. And then, as was inevitable, this mad dude called Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic), stole it. Then, of course, three less-than-ordinary folks were conscripted to take the second time machine prototype the company was already building, called the Lifeboat, and go after Flynn!

Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) is a passionate History professor second to none, rather like Dr. Nathan Heywood from Legends of Tomorrow in her ability to drop all kinds of interesting information on nearly any time period in history you can think of! Rufus Carlin (Malcolm Barrett) is a scientist who helped build the infernal time machines, and bears the enormous responsibility of being the only one able to pilot the silly thing when our trio goes back on their trips. And rounding them out is Wyatt Logan (Matt Lanter), a U.S. Army Delta Force operative, with a bunch of darkness in his own past and his own personal vendetta concerning the murder of his wife. All three are reluctant and skeptical to strap into the rounded pod of an untested time machine, but that first jaunt to stop Flynn from preventing the Hindenburg disaster changes all their tunes!

And what’s Flynn’s problem? In true Doctor Who fashion, Flynn got ahold of a diary (it even has a blue leather cover, hah) Lucy compiled and somehow wibbley-wobbly-timey-wimey gave to him, describing all the time travel adventures she actually hasn’t gone on yet. Flynn’s plan is to use the information in the diary and the stolen time machine to stop Rittenhouse, the nefarious collective of blue-blooded families who’ve existed throughout fairly-recent history working their evil schemes from without and within, like the Illuminati in a Dan Brown novel or something, to ultimately take over and remake the world in their desired image. It also doesn’t help Flynn’s fragile emotional state that Rittenhouse, indirectly or not, caused the disappeared-death of his beloved wife and daughter when they started mucking about with time travel. Them ripple effects, they are a bitch.

Mason Industries, led by Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph) himself, get to endure a hierarchy shake-up when Special Agent Denise Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey) of Homeland Security comes in to take over the super-secret time travel project, determined to find and stop Flynn at nearly any cost. Jiya is a programmer at Mason Industries and also happens to be Rufus’ girlfriend, being trained on the side to pilot the time machine herself, which will effectively negate any need for Rufus once she’s done. Mason has the dubious privilege of being harried by Rittenhouse and Homeland and troubled by the chosen threesome’s own issues throughout the series, and while I understand and even empathize with his plight, I wish we had gotten to see a little more of what he stood to lose in the background. Agent Christopher always proves to be on the side of our trio but never forgets she has a job to do, and it does come to a head at the end, when the inevitable choice of duty vs. heart has to be made.

So where, and when of course, has our trio been to in this glorious first season? Mason Industries dutifully provides them with entire outfits for the appropriate time period, though of course nothing can be done about the fact that Rufus is a black man, and in his own words, “History hasn’t exactly been kind and understanding to my people.” Lucy does manage to turn her potential failing of being female into an actual asset, especially when faced with situations like needing to talk Kennedy’s mistress into a mission, or encouraging little-known black female mathematician Katherine Johnson into saving the Apollo 11 flight. We’ve met Abraham Lincoln, heard Richard Nixon, thrilled at Bonnie & Clyde, Benedict freaking Arnold and General Washington himself, been in the murder castle of America’s first known serial killer H.H. Holmes, done escapes with Harry Houdini, been fired at by Jesse James, shared a drink with Charles Lindbergh and Ernest Hemingway and Josephine Baker too, even met the original Scarface (but don’t call him that), Al Capone. All the details of the time are lovingly, meticulously attended to, from the underground atmosphere of Prohibition to the breathless wonder of first-time space travel in 1969, no stone is left unturned, no vintage car or authentic 1800’s rifle overlooked. Even Lucy’s hairstyle is always carefully tailored to whatever time period she’s about to fly off to; I appreciate that kind of detailed love.

Spoilers really are Timeless!

So we’ve come down to the finale episode, and most of our heroes still haven’t quite decided what their end game is going to be. Wyatt seems to have finally given in to the fact that stealing the time machine and changing history just is not going to bring his beloved wife back; the idea that your beloved is fated to die by whatever means is just a huge bummer, man. Rufus has finally stood up to Rittenhouse and Mason himself, despite being their spy for most of the series, and is paying for it literally in blood, mostly coming from that gunshot wound in his chest. Special Agent Christopher and Mason have taken it upon themselves to collaborate, albeit reluctantly, to steal the lifeboat from under the noses of the Rittenhouse infiltrators that have managed to take over Mason Industries. Lucy is still desperate to take the time machine and go save her disappeared sister, especially after finding out that her father is Rittenhouse alumni and has plans for her pedigree to aid them, with or without her consent. Our trio have found out about a Rittenhouse summit meeting during the Joseph McCarthy red paranoia era of 1954 and are determined to go find Flynn, who’s gone off planning to just blow up the entire summit meeting, and stop all this nonsense once and for all!

But Rufus can’t very well fly a complicated time machine with a patch-job hole in his chest, thank you alternate-timeline Lucy’s now-ex-fiancee, so of course Jiya volunteers to come help drive. Rufus begs her not to, warning that the lifeboat was only ever built to carry three people through a wormhole, but things are hurtling forward and there’s no stopping them now, even though yes Jiya does pay a horrible potential price for it at the end.

Ethan Cahill, another Rittenhouse member who has some odd (for 1954) habits and also happens to be Lucy’s grandfather, after getting a clear demonstration of the ability of the Lifeboat, agrees to aid our intrepid time travelers as best he can – working as a mole, leading another kind of double life inside Rittenhouse, for as many long years as he can stand, gathering all information on them to aid our trio and ultimately Mason Industries. And while all this is roundaboutly successful in the end, all except for perhaps poor Jiya, the show finale ends with dawning horror of insurgency rampant again, as Lucy learns she hasn’t gone down the rabbit hole nearly far enough.

I know, sadly, that NBC still hasn’t decided on whether or not to have a Season Two of Timeless and that seems to me to be why the Season One finale ended up with both a wrapup and a cliffhanger. Personally, I loved me some Timeless and sincerely hope our heroes and heroines return for some all new wacky time travel adventures!

Travel back through the wormhole for all Timeless Season One episodes at NBC.com!

San Diego Film Week presents ‘A Life Lived’: For Love or Money?

Posted in comedy, drama, Movies, Romance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Riley Wood

Studio: Not A Camel Productions

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

The journey of a single dollar bill and the lives it affects, inadvertently and directly, along the way.

We as collective humans have more in common with each-other than most of us ever realize, or are willing to admit in some nasty cases. We all covet and desire, love and hate and all kinds of emotions betwixt and between, torn between responsibility and the need to just say, “Screw it all!” Our actions, and occasionally the very lack of acting, ripple-affects those in our lives, and sometimes even outside or our sphere of awareness, in ways we can’t possibly begin to fathom, but are endlessly fascinating to ruminate upon. And it is this circular unknowing that A Life Lived dives into, presenting the journey of a dollar bill with a heart on it for our perusal.

One wouldn’t think that a man who had dumped his wife and gotten a brand-new upgraded girlfriend who need to pay for his sex elsewhere, but there you have it. Our first protagonist went to get change for a $20 from the grocery store and the adorkable eternally smiling cashier was not only super-duper extra-nice to him, she drew a heart on one of the dollar bills. This is of course how we know that it’s that particular dollar bill we’re following, but hey, that works for me. And not too much later, when he decides to go get his rocks off with a motel Dominatrix, that’s where the hearted dollar bill ends up.

We follow the heart to a botched robbery of a convenience store; Tom’s wife is dying, his insurance has run out, and he’s been nerving himself to rob in full view of the store for hours. In trying to be nice and let Tom off with a minor infraction, the store clerk actually made it worse for him, but there are still some avenging angels in the police force, and a certain Mr. Jackson pockets the hearted bill in an actual theft for a genuinely good cause.

We follow the heart unerringly through a thievery sleepover, a cocaine slide from whacked-out performer Dixx, the revenge of Dixx’s assistant and her attempt to break the 4th wall inside the movie, the plight of homeless George, a disgusting attempt at sexual coercion when the bill goes “missing” from a diner till, and finally Delby Madison gets a lawyerly consultation fee from Peter, Tom’s brother, for, you guessed it, a single dollar bill with a heart on it.

We’ve come round to the end, at least the end of this bill’s particular journey, and as many journeys do, this one ends in death. The death of Tom’s beloved wife Martha, yes, but he was sprung from jail in enough time to say goodbye to her, in tears and lamentations and perhaps even a little relief that her pain had finally come to an end. Tom will have to do some time in jail, but it’s likely to be very little, and he’s allowed some extra time off for the funeral and a night of mourning after. As Tom sits and ruminates over a life he lived, with Martha, and now the life he may have to live without her, he needs some way to light the very fine Cuban cigar his brother gifted him. Wooden matches aren’t doing it. And then, finally, Tom’s eyes fall on the dollar bill with a heart drawn on it that made its way back to him – a fitting end for the life lived of that one single solitary dollar bill.

Of course there is a wonderful little easter egg after that, we see the morning routine of the kooky cat lady grocery store clerk, as she prepares to be eternally cheerful and smiling no matter what comes her way, and always and forever drawing random hearts on peoples single dollar bills. What lives will these bills lead, how will they cross us in unsuspecting ways and bring us together, or apart, depending on the choices made with these little green pieces of paper that can move the world?

After the showing of the film, which I greatly enjoyed, there was a Q&A session with filmmaker and director Riley Wood, who delightedly told me about more easter eggs and tidbits to be found in A Life Lived. Such as the number 13 myth, referencing the original 13 colonies and said to be found hiding all over in our currency, connecting to all sorts of mysticism and ancient secret socities; director Wood subtly inserted the number 13 in many places in the film. Wood confirmed that the cocaine legend was indeed inserted into the film, for it is after all part of the dollars own legend, and that every named character in the film was named from a person somewhere on U.S. currency (Jackson, Jefferson, etc.). And lastly, Wood talked about giving each of the main characters a few moments alone in their vehicle as a spotlight into their heads, because every one of us is at least a slightly different person when we’re alone in our car.

The film is still working on distribution rights, but believe me when I say it is a delightfully heart-strung romp and should be viewed whenever possible.

A Life Lived Trailer from Riley Wood on Vimeo.

‘Sadako vs. Kayako’: Now there’s a twist we didn’t see coming

Posted in Action, Foreign, horror, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Spoilers haunt your everything!

Most of us of the Horror fan world are aware of the huge J-Horror craze that went out years back, the triple threat of the films Ringu, Ju-On, and The Eye had everyone talking. And if there’s one thing the U.S. does well, or at least a lot of, is remakes. The Americanized The Ring, The Grudge and the controversial The Eye, spawned a new generation of Horror remakes, often touted as nothing other than huge epic American loving tributes, riiight, to some wildly popular Asian film. This actually turned out to be unfortunate for the American Horror market, as the remake has literally been done to death now, and many of us are heartily sick of it. Horror is the one place in the movie-making world with literally no boundaries – fear is, after all, one of the most basic human instincts. So imagine my surprise when Sadako vs. Kayako turns out to be the exact same thing, but from the opposite direction – an Asian version of the highly notable hugely popular American mashup film Freddy vs. Jason.

Generally from mashup films, at least from American ones, you can expect a certain zany feel and some comedy somewhere, and SvK struggles with that concept, because there’s never been a thing funny about either of their origin stories or subsequent films. There are a few wacky moments, mostly from the flippant priest Keizo, but of comedy there can be easily said none. But that’s not what made Ringu and Ju-On great, right?

So what do we know? The Professor in the movie, Morishige (Masahiro Komoto), teaching an urban legends class (how many of them did you know?) reminds us briefly of the origins of Kayako (Runa Endo), the rage house, a cursed house with the cat child and the contortionist ghost his mother, with her ever-creepy iconic door-closing moan, yes them. But he prefers to focus rather on the story of Sadako (Elly Nanami) and the cursed video tape, hell, he even wrote an entire book on the subject and blatantly entices students to purchase and read it during his lecture. Sadako and the cursed video, she comes from the well and shadow walks out of your television to execute those who don’t do her bidding in two days’ time, often in the most horrific way unimaginable.

Okay, so we’ve introduced the wise character who knows all about one of our opponents, now what? This seemingly-random mess begins with college student Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa) asking her friend Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) for help with transferring her parents old wedding VCR tape to a DVD. No-one uses VCR players anymore, so they have to go to a used shop to find a deck, and sure enough, an unlabeled tattered older video sits in it already.

Meanwhile elsewhere, Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro) is silent because her family had to move recently and the house across the way, well damnit, it’s all condemned and boarded up and calls to Suzuka in the creepiest way. These moron children, wanting to rag on the runt of the group who somehow insulted their leader, send him in to the condemned house with a backpack full of rocks, and I bet you can guess how that turned out. Actually, wait. I guess we could say we found one, rather unintentional it seems, moment of humor in Sadako vs. Kayako – the small boy, insulted and put upon, trembling with borrowed rage from the cursed house, as he unerringly lobs a rock into the center of the forehead of the leader – POW.

This is kind of fast but we need to pick up the pace if we want to have origin story, current bloodshed and Sadako and Kayako duking it out in here somewhere too. Only Natsumi ended up watching the cursed video, Yuri was watching her phone, okay, sure. This becomes important later, because her voluntary sacrifice is supposed to give her more power or purity of purpose or something, I’m guessing. So Natsumis on the clock, now we’ve infected the Professor, he wants to send the girls to a Japanese onmyouji, or exorcist priest, to see if she can get the ghost now haunting Natsumi out. This is something I failed to understand, since I never thought Sadako ever tried to eat another person, Kayako did that – cursed video woman would literally frighten you to death and that was all. (However, the latest Americanized version of the Ring legacy, Rings, does address this very issue, so maybe that’s another tribute.) Doesn’t matter, onward we go!

The exorcism scene is one of the better ones of the movie, and it does get darkly wacky when Sadako rises in Natsumis body and proceeds to just wreak bloody fucking havoc with her own two bare hands. After the execution of the poor exorcist too, we’re introduced to mischievous priest Keizo (Masanobu Ando) and his little blind red assistant Tamao (Mai Kikuchi), who, for all his saucy attitude, rather reminded me of Constantine from the TV show. This is another bastardized American tribute kind of thing, because for all his bluster, just like Constantine, Keizo is still a completely competent priest and quite capable of performing exorcisms and planning to trap ghosts, all the while ready with a quick quip that makes you feel about five for asking such a question. And with the help of little red blinding hood there, Keizo hatches a daring plan – pit Sadako and Kayako against each-other in the ultimate ghost-off that will hopefully cancel out all the curses being lobbed everywhere.

This plan, too, is a very American thing to do; I can’t help thinking that Asian spirit folklore honestly wouldn’t have room for this sort of out-of-the-box thinking. And hey, it turns out that out behind the Grudge house is a disused well, what a coincidence, which Keizo and pals prepare for use as a last resort trap, just in case. Here I get to remind us the audience that Freddy vs. Jason did the same exact thing, learn the baddies origin stories and attempt to use the environment against them, and that didn’t turn out particularly stellar for them, either.

So we’ve come down to the wire and the attempt to trap a pair of ghosts that have long-spanning legacies and a string of movies to attest to this. Suzuka and Yuri will enter the Grudge house and play the cursed tape inside, thereby squaring and sharing the curses between both of them, in the hopes that when the two baddest wraith mommas come for their collective prizes, they’ll be too preoccupied fighting each-other to care much about their prey escaping. But it’s not working and Keizo proceeds to announce very calmly that one of them needs to sacrifice herself so Sadako and Kayako can merge together in her inhabited body. Think about that for a moment – these killing spirits, these onryo yurei, are going to slam together, mix their incredible power, and then eat and inhabit her living body. ‘Oh shit,’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

This brand new entity, the utter twist of Sadako and Kayako merging, is now apparently called Sadakaya and for the most part (to me anyway) Kayako looks the most dominant in the equation. That iconic noise and the contortions, plus the prehensile hair Sadako is noted for, proceed to flat dominate Keizo and his magic, and even the blessed and sealed well can’t stop Sadakaya (also Mizuki Yamamoto) now. Everyone’s dead, or about to be disappeared-dead like they do in Ju-On, the cursed women have merged and have a brand new young body to inhabit and wreak havoc with, and a new generation of fear can be born. There’s even an easter egg way at the end of the credits, much in the style of the severed Freddy-head wink, so make of that what you will.

For something that began life as an April Fool’s joke, the fan response to Sadako vs. Kayako has been as encouraging as possible. It’s hard to do the enduring legacy of both movies justice in one mashup film, but I think director Koji Shiraishi made a fine attempt. Did he succeed? Only you can tell me if Sadakaya is the ultimate curse.

You can twist in the mashup of Sadako vs. Kayako on Shudder.com right now!