A Ghost Story, Berlin Syndrome & The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane Movie Reviews

Three more quickie horror reviews. Well, none of them are actually “horror” films. Two thrillers & one pretentious bore…

A Ghost Story (2017)

Directed & Written by David Lowery

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Affleck plays a man who becomes a ghost and remains in the house he shares with his wife (Mara).

My Brief Opinion:

What a load of pretentious twaddle. I was all prepared to like this, too, since I like Rooney Mara for some reason (even though she displays zero emotion in everything I’ve ever seen her in). To be fair, I can appreciate what this story was trying to achieve (does life have meaning or will we all just die and fade away and be forgotten blah blah blah). It’s actually quite a depressing film but do we really need to be reminded that life sucks, especially with the current state of the world?? Here’s my Twitter “tweet review” of this movie: Well. That was tedious. #AGhostStory βœ¨πŸ πŸ‘«πŸŽΉπŸŽ§πŸš— πŸ’’ πŸ’€πŸ‘»πŸ™πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ₯§πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘¦πŸ‘»πŸ½πŸ’’πŸ˜±πŸšπŸ—πŸ™πŸ‘©πŸΌβ€πŸŒΎπŸ‘»πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ’€πŸ πŸ‘«πŸ‘»πŸ‘»πŸ“œπŸ•³βœ¨

My Rating: 6/10

Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Directed by Cate Shortland

Based on Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten

Starring: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells about a young photographer Clare, going to Germany, where she meets an attractive guy Andi. Waking up after a stormy night of passion, Clare realizes that Andi locked her in the apartment and is not going to let her go.

My Brief Opinion:

I actually thought this was a decent psychological thriller. Starring Teresa Palmer & Max Riemelt, this is the IMDb synopsis: A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave. I’m always interested to see how a character will behave in this sort of situation (Teresa Palmer is the one being kept locked up in the apartment belonging to a stranger she’s slept with while on holiday). It’s strange to see him go about his daily life as normal each day while keeping her imprisoned and to see the “relationship” develop between them (he sees her as his girlfriend, of sorts, in his messed up mind). And she of course depends on him for food, etc, to survive. It’s based on a book so I’d be interested to know more about the characters’ feelings & motivations as I think the movie doesn’t explore this well enough. Maybe I’ll read the novel sometime.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

Directed by Nicolas Gessner

Based on The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane by Laird Koenig

Starring: Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman, Scott Jacoby

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot focuses on 13-year-old Rynn Jacobs (Foster), a child whose absent poet father and secretive behaviours prod the suspicions of her conservative small-town Maine neighbours.

My Brief Opinion:

I watched this odd 1976 Jodie Foster film partly because I was sick of seeing it in my Netflix Watchlist (it’s been on there for years). I think I was under the impression that it was a straightforward horror but it’s more of a drama that almost feels like a play. Actually, the story would work quite well as a play (maybe it was a play – I’m too lazy to look into it). It drags & I found it a bit underwhelming but the young Foster did a good job as the mysterious 13-year-old who seems to live in a house all on her own.

My Rating: 5.5/10

I far preferred the Jodie Foster film Bugsy Malone, which I watched for the first time last year but never got around to reviewing. Seems to be a bit of a cult classic in the U.K. but barely even known in the U.S.

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The Kings Of Summer, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints & X+Y Movie Reviews

I figured it was time to catch up on reviewing the movies I’ve watched by doing another quickie review trio. All three of these films were quite good (although one of them was a little on the boring side…). Let’s discuss! πŸ™‚

The Kings Of Summer (2013)

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring: Nick Robinson, MoisΓ©s Arias, Gabriel Basso, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Three teenage friends, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.

My Opinion:

I kept seeing movie bloggers on here compare The Kings Of Summer to Stand By Me and, since Stand By Me is one of the best movies EVER, I knew I had to watch it. Well, it’s certainly no Stand By Me (but what is??). However, it’s still a good modern day coming-of-age film and I can see some current young teenagers connecting to this one in the same way I connected to Stand By Me.

I have to say this was off to an excellent start when the the first song in the film was Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song. Yes! It was the perfect fit & had me all excited to keep watching this. But then I remembered that the film wasn’t set in the Seventies even though they were using an old song. Damn! You know what? I think this film would’ve been awesome if it had been set in 1976 or so. But maybe part of the point is that these boys choose to “live in the wild” and away from today’s modern conveniences, giving the film a somewhat timeless feel that’s pretty cool.

What I didn’t expect was the amount of humor in this as I thought it was going to be more of a coming-of-age drama. I found it kind of jarring at first but got used to it and, by the end, I enjoyed the humor. The humor is of the “Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, etc” variety. They’re a part of that group of people who mean absolutely nothing to me as I don’t watch whatever American TV show(s) they’re all in together and I think that movies that rely on these types of actors don’t always translate so well overseas. I found the film fairly funny overall but preferred when the boys were on their own & away from their crazy American TV parents. In fact, I could understand why they wanted to get the hell away from their annoying parents & go live in the woods. I did really like the token “crazy friend” who says & does some pretty bizarre things – he probably made me chuckle the most (in my head – I’m not a laugh-out-loud person):

I enjoyed this movie but was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t just a little more serious or heartfelt. It reminded me of Mud, which was another recent coming-of-age film with “boys in the wild”. I’d have to say that I actually enjoyed The Kings Of Summer more and would be more likely to watch it again but that Mud is the superior film with better performances.

The Kings Of Summer is at its best when the boys are on their own building their house in the woods as these parts of the film feel timeless in a way that will still make it relevant years from now. The film is unfortunately let down somewhat by quirky adult characters whose humor won’t work for everyone, although I personally didn’t mind it. I sound disappointed but the comparisons to Stand By Me didn’t help, I suppose. The Kings Of Summer is a very enjoyable film and is definitely worth a watch if you like coming-of-age stories as much as I do. Just don’t expect anything too deep – it’s mostly just light-hearted fun.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Directed by David Lowery

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Rami Malek, Keith Carradine, Charles Baker, Nate Parker

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.

My Opinion:

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is the one that’s “a little on the boring side” of these three movies. I don’t have a lot to say about it so I’m going to attempt to not ramble on & to write only two paragraphs (not counting this one!). I watched this for two reasons: I liked the odd title and I have a bit of a girl crush on Rooney Mara.

As for the title, I found this in IMDB trivia: “The title is director David Lowery’s “mondegreen” – a mishearing of a song lyric – and has no actual meaning”. Interesting! But a little disappointing as I was hoping the title was meaningful in some way. As for Mara, she’s her usual type of character in this: A tiny, quiet waif with beautiful eyes and zero personality. I don’t mean that in a bitchy way – I haven’t seen some of her biggest roles yet but she’s always this exact same sort of character in what I have seen. I’d like to see her play something very different but, for this film, she was perfect for the role as the “Bonnie” type character in a very laidback & extremely slooooooooow version of the typical outlaw couple story made famous by the brilliant Bonnie And Clyde film.

This movie is worth a look if you like outlaw couple stories, a very slow pace, and some lovely cinematography that clearly takes its inspiration from Terrence Malick’s films. Actually, I suppose this movie is much more similar to Badlands than to Bonnie And Clyde. It’s hard to know whether or not to recommend it as I think you’ll either love it or be bored out of your mind. I’d say that you should make sure to watch the classics Bonnie And Clyde and Badlands first but then you’d find that this one most definitely pales in comparison. It’s a very pretty movie with shallow characters and not a lot of story but I think some film lovers have bought into its look and style. I did appreciate Ain’t Them Bodies Saints as I sometimes go for style over substance but I feel like this same sort of film has been done much better by other filmmakers in the past. Based on this movie, I’ll be interested in seeing what the director (David Lowery) does with the Pete’s Dragon remake as I adored that movie as a kid but, as much as I hate remakes, it’s one that I’ll admit could do with being updated as it’s badly dated now.

My Rating: 6/10

X+Y (2014) (aka A Brilliant Young Mind in the U.S.)

Directed by Morgan Matthews

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.

My Opinion:

Although The Kings Of Summer was my favorite of these three movies, I’d have to say that this was actually the best film of the three. By the way, this is called A Brilliant Young Mind in America. X+Y was inspired by a documentary the director (Morgan Matthews) did called Beautiful Young Minds, which was about the British team in the 2006 International Mathematical Olympiad and how many of these young mathematics geniuses have some form of autism as does Asa Butterfield’s character in X+Y.

I don’t know how to say this without sounding rude but this movie is SO very British. Well, I have to admit that the British do the “life is hard & everyone is damaged in some way” movies best. At least it’s honest & much more realistic than Hollywood movies filled with the beautiful & the perfect but I’ve always turned to movies more for escapism from the realities of life & have to be in the mood for a drama before I watch one. Don’t get me wrong, though – I far prefer a movie like this, which is filled with rich characters & good performances, to some of the shallow crap that Hollywood churns out.

The quirky British comic relief in this film is provided by Rafe Spall’s character and I liked him a lot. He deals with his own serious issue through humor and his relationship with Butterfield’s character & Butterfield’s mother (Sally Hawkins) work really well in the film. I also really enjoyed the scenes showing the British team in China. Most of all, though, the story is about an autistic boy and the difficulties faced by those who love him (specifically, his mother in this movie – the mother/son relationship is the key to this film).

X+Y is a tad too formulaic & clichΓ©d at times but, ultimately, that doesn’t usually bother me too much as long as a movie is done well and has characters that I care about (I felt the same way about a great little obscure romance recently called In Your Eyes). This movie admittedly deserves a slightly higher rating than I’m giving it as movies with a little too much tragedy & drama aren’t really my thing but don’t be discouraged by my slight negativity if you think you’d like this. X+Y is a good film.

My Rating: 7/10

**You know I need to end this with Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song, as heard in The Kings Of Summer… πŸ™‚

ParaNorman (2012) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

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ParaNorman (2012)

Directed by Sam Fell & Chris Butler

Starring Voice Actors:
Kodi Smit-McPhee
Jodelle Ferland
Tucker Albrizzi
Anna Kendrick
Casey Affleck
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Leslie Mann
Jeff Garlin
Bernard Hill
Elaine Stritch
Tempestt Bledsoe
John Goodman
Alex Borstein

Studio: Laika

Distributed by: Focus Features
Universal Pictures (International)

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Norman Babcock is able to see & speak with the dead. No one, including his family, believes him and he’s ridiculed & bullied at school. But it’s soon up to Norman to save his town from an old witch’s curse.

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This is my second review for my Halloween Horror Fest. I first reviewed From Beyond (which was pretty messed up). I liked the sound of ParaNorman after reading Abbi’s review at Where The Wild Things Are HERE. She liked it okay so I figured it must be good as she’s not a huge fan of this sort of kids’ stuff usually. πŸ™‚

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My Opinion:

ParaNorman was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed it! This is from the same studio that made Coraline, which I fell asleep in the middle of in 2009 and haven’t yet bothered to finish. I know that was more highly rated & looked great but I really didn’t find it any fun to watch. ParaNorman is fun & a few things actually made me laugh (I’m not a “laugh out loud” person).

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Norman can see all of the dead people in his small town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, including his own grandmother (who lives in Norman’s living room & watches zombie movies with him). His father doesn’t believe him and wants him to start acting “normal”. His sister and his schoolmates think he’s a freak. One day an overweight bullied boy named Neil Downe befriends Norman after he sees him being bullied as well. I loved Neil! He’s a typical dorky chubby kid in a movie but he’s so sweet & funny that you can’t help but like him. He’s the first one to believe Norman & thinks it’s really cool that he can talk to the dead (As he says to Norman: “Can you see my dog, Bub? He was hit by an animal rescue van. Tragic and ironic.”). Ha! Well, it was funny in the movie.

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I think what makes this film better than a lot of other kids’ films (Other than Pixar. Sorry – Nothing beats Pixar!) is the fact that it’s aimed at a higher age so a lot of the jokes and references are “older” and will also be funny to the adults watching it. I’m not talking anything risquΓ© (I don’t think that has a place in a kids’ film) but things such as a great reference to Halloween (the movie, not the holiday). Loved that! And a Friday The 13th gag that was pretty damn funny too.

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And speaking of that, it was great that this film has a clear love of old scary movies (traditional stuff – zombies, witches, etc). Norman’s room is full of classic movie monster toys, posters, a cool alarm clock, etc. It reminds me how little I’ve watched the old horror classics (Vincent Price, Hammer Horror, that kind of stuff…). It gives this film a great “Halloween” feel (the holiday, not the movie). This movie actually reminded me a bit of the 1986 Amazing Stories episode called “Go To The Head Of The Class”. I used to watch that EVERY October but had sort of forgotten about it until Norman made me think of the teenage boy in that (Scott Coffey), who is obsessed with classic horror films & agrees to perform some black magic on his mean old teacher (Christopher Lloyd) to impress a girl (Mary Stuart Masterson). Oh man – I want to watch that again. It’s been years! Hell – I’ll watch it and do a mini review later. Let’s finish talking about ParaNorman instead…

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Summary:

ParaNorman is a great family film for the slightly older kids (maybe 8 or 9 and up but don’t quote me on that in case your 8-year-old is traumatized) that the adults will enjoy as well thanks to some genuinely funny stuff and references to horror classics. There’s still a “moral to the story” for the kids but it’s not a Disney-style one that’ll make the adults gag – It’s actually a good one for pre-teens. A pleasant surprise and a fun watch for this adult.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Sorry – that review was even more rubbish than usual because I’ve just realized that if I’m going to manage this Horror Fest I’ve planned, I’m going to have to post one review every day until Halloween now. Argh! So they’ll be written quickly…

Oh – Here’s another ParaNorman quote that made me giggle like an 11-year-old boy:

Mr. Prenderghast: [hiding behind statue] Psst!
Neil: [whispers to Norman] I think that statue just pissed at us.

Hahaha! I loved Neil. I’m immature…