The Invitation (2015) Review

The Invitation (2015)

Directed by Karyn Kusama

Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge, Mike Doyle, Jay Larson, John Carroll Lynch

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While attending a dinner party at his former home, a man thinks his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests.

My Opinion:

After being so negative over the past two days when reviewing New Zealand horror comedies Housebound & Deathgasm, I’m happy to review this pretty solid & intense psychological horror/thriller. I’d seen some very positive reviews of The Invitation from fellow bloggers & the plot synopsis sounded like the sort of mystery I go for so I’m glad I listened to you guys as I did enjoy this one. 🙂

The setup was a little iffy as Logan Marshall-Green brings his girlfriend to a dinner party his ex-wife & her new husband are having at his former home with a bunch of their mutual friends. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think many people invite their ex-spouses to dinner parties – I think they just meet up with their mutual friends separately. But these people appear to have a lot of money & people with money can be a bit weird, so, who knows!

I’ll try to not give too much away but there’s a tragic past between the divorced couple & I really felt for Logan Marshall-Green’s character (and his ex too but she’s so weird you can’t really relate to her in the same way). He plays his character well, with a great escalating paranoia that never goes too over-the-top. You remain on his side as something clearly bizarre is going on that most of the other guests either don’t notice or choose to ignore.

There’s a good mix of different personalities in this. Marshall-Green & his girlfriend (Emayatzy Corinealdiare) are, obviously, the main characters we’re meant to root for while most of the friends are fun (albeit in a self-absorbed sort of way). None of their characters are really explored, though, as this is mainly about the divorced couple & the thing that tore them apart and the movie did well to convey their feelings to the audience.

The remaining characters, the ex-wife’s new husband and the new friends they’ve made, are the ones we’re not sure if we can trust. Are they crazy? Or is Logan Marshall-Green losing it? Or maybe some of the mutual friends can’t be trusted?

This is the sort of psychological mystery thriller that I enjoy & I’d recommend it to those who aren’t necessarily horror fans as this is certainly more thriller than horror. I have to say that the pacing was a little slow and, besides Marshall-Green, I didn’t really care too much about anyone (but at least they weren’t all totally hateful like in Don’t Breathe). This is also another one of those movies with a Game Of Thrones actor (sexy Daario: Michiel Huisman as the new husband). I always find this a bit distracting as these people are their GoT characters to me (like “You know nothing, Jon Snow” Rose Leslie, who was in the movie Honeymoon that I really liked & reviewed last week). He was good in this, though, and not too distracting (aside from being sexy). At least Littlefinger wasn’t in this one like in the (fantastic) Sing Street… He’s in everything, dammit! Ugh. Now I’m totally off topic so I’ll shut up. I recommend this one although it’s a “one-time watch only” for me personally. I see no need to re-watch this once finding out what’s really going on but it was enjoyably tense with a decent story & good acting.

My Rating: 6.5/10

**Oh! This movie had a song I really like playing over the end credits. I actually discovered this song when I did a list of My Top Ten Devil & Hell Songs. It’s folk! Can’t say I like (or, more like that I even know) much folk but I think this song is great. Here’s Devil’s Spoke by Laura Marling. (This movie doesn’t involve Satan, though. Sorry – didn’t mean to throw you off by including this! Or DOES the movie involve Satan? Hmmmmm….) 😉

Gran Torino (2008) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Cindy. You can find her blog, Cindy Bruchman, HERE. She also reviewed Double Indemnity for this project. Thanks for the reviews, Cindy! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about Gran Torino, IMDB rank 125 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Clint Eastwood directed, produced and starred in the 2008 film, Gran Torino. There’s much to say about this oxymoron of a character: scarred and sweet, rude and noble, cantankerous and romantic all wrapped up into a celluloid package and delivered by the scruffy, inaudible Clint Eastwood. It’s ranked high at #95 on the IMDB 250 film countdown. Should it be?

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Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski

This was a film that had my heart and my head fighting each other. Any plot with a dynamic character is preferable than a static one. Clint acted as an old ‘Dirty Harry’ with too many snarls and one-liners; I thought the script by Nick Schenk was a choppy mix of horrible, mediocre, and small beams of brilliant. Walt Kowalski I could relate to. I grew up listening to veterans of the Korean war talking like Walt Kowalski. Men back then were supposed to be hard, unsympathetic. You better know how to chase a skirt, drink beer, swing a hammer, and  shed no tear. That generation kept their yards immaculate, took care of everything they owned and threw nothing away. They would die for their family and country. Racial tags and slurs were common growing up as a kid.  Political Correctness hadn’t been suggested yet. Another way to put it, Walt Kowalski was Archie Bunker, and Archie was as common as apple pie, lemonade, and the American flag. Experiencing this, I didn’t have a problem with Walt Kowalski in the film. Clint Eastwood has played the same character for fifty years, so I wasn’t surprised he was, again, the hard shell with the soft middle.

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Walt reluctantly mentors Thao, who he nicknames Toad. Thao is played by actor Bee Vang. It was his first acting job, and you could tell. Unfortunately, Bee Vang was one of the worst actors in the cast along with the neophyte priest, Father Janovich. Anytime they conversed with Clint Eastwood, it was painful to watch. The script was terrible and their acting wooden and unbelievable. There was very little chemistry between Eastwood and the actors in the film except the bright spot, Sue, played by Ahney Her.

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Ahney Her had a great role in Sue. Her lame boyfriend, appearing briefly as pretty-boy Trey, was played by Clint’s son, Scott Eastwood. Another family member contributed to Eastwood’s film, Kyle Eastwood, who wrote the score. But back to Ahney. She delivered her lines with grace and energy which was sorely lacking in the other performances. Sue was the interpreter, the feminist, the “smart” Asian female who intercedes and befriends Walt Kowalski. It is only after she is attacked that the film becomes interesting. While Walt hacks up blood, the ending is clear, but the climax is nicely done.

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While it sounds like I disliked the film, I cried at the end, and still love the film despite its flaws. Perhaps because I understood what Clint Eastwood was trying to do.  Here was a film about the effect of the horrors of war. Walt Kowalski lived with the guilt of killing Korean soldiers. It haunted and jaded his entire life. Here, now, was Thao, who was Walt’s redemption. By sacrificing his life for Thao, he was able to come to peace with his past and give a life to Thao who would be free of the gang preditors. By vindicating Sue’s attack, Walt in one move saves the neighborhood, the family, and Thao and Sue. The irony in the film is wonderful. Walt Kowalski becomes more comfortable with the customs and food of the Hmong than his own family.  Walt had failed as a father to his two sons, unable to have a positive relationship with them or affirming their manhood. With Thao, Walt is able to teach him how to be a man (albeit in an old-school way) by teaching him how to repair, garden, build, and care for possessions. That’s what real men do. They care for their families and protect them.

For those reasons, the audience discovers they look beyond the gruff exterior of Walt and see the loyal, loving man at the same time Walt Kowalski looks beyond the Asian stereotype and sees his Hmong neighbors as people with similar values as his own. While the traditions and customs displayed in the film might be inaccurate at times, the purpose behind the film is why Gran Torino is ranked pretty high. Clint Eastwood attempts to reveal Universal Truths in his films, and I appreciate that.

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Oh, also the sweet, green 1972 Gran Torino. I want one of those!