Happy Death Day (2017) & The Ritual (2017) Reviews

Finally – here are two review re-posts of two horror movies I watched this year that weren’t truly dreadful. I didn’t love them but they were watchable, unlike most the horror films I saw at home this year…

Happy Death Day (2017)

Directed by Christopher B. Landon

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Happy Death Day follows a college student who is murdered on her birthday and begins reliving the day over and over again; at that point, she sets out to find the killer and stop her death.

My Brief Opinion:

I was really annoyed that I missed this in the cinema last year as it sounded like a fun horror in the slightly-cheesy 80’s slasher style I’ll always have affection for (since I’m old). But the movie was a disappointment, although it’s enjoyable enough for an hour and a half of your time. I just think I won’t remember a thing about it in a few years. The biggest problem was probably that the main character was a hateful bitch, so it was hard to care if she’d ever be able to stop her murder from happening. Yeah, she changes at the end (as to be expected – the whole point is that she needs to be a better person), but… Meh. I think my expectations were just too high. This concept was obviously done so well in Groundhog Day that nothing that’s tried to use that same idea has worked as well. If you want a non-horror teen movie with the same idea, I enjoyed Before I Fall slightly more than this one. And if you want a modern horror comedy with a cheesy 80’s thing going on, The Final Girls was better than this one as well.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Ritual (2017)

Directed by David Bruckner

Based on The Ritual by Adam Nevill

Starring: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them.

My Brief Opinion:

Still not sure about this horror film. For the most part, I think I liked it. It was atmospheric and genuinely creepy at times (I rarely find horror movies scary in any way). The conflict between this group of friends due to something that happens at the beginning worked quite well with the story later on of the presence in the forest and the way it brings out hidden resentment. The thing that will make people love this or hate this is the ending. The movie changes and becomes a much different film from the Blair Witch type of beginning and this won’t work for everyone. I didn’t mind the ending but preferred the more mysterious, less in-your-face start to the film.

My Rating: 6/10

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Swallows And Amazons (2016) Review

Swallows And Amazons (2016)

Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe

Based on Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Starring: Rafe Spall, Andrew Scott, Kelly Macdonald, Jessica Hynes, Harry Enfield, Dane Hughes, Orla Hill, Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen, Bobby McCulloch, Seren Hawkes, Hannah Jayne Thorp

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film chronicles the story of the Walker children on their adventures in the Lake District with the goal of claiming a remote island for themselves. Heading over there on the boat “Swallow”, they soon discover they’re not alone. A gang of rebellious children, the Blacketts also known as the “Amazons”, have set up camp there and a battle for the island begins. But with Britain on the brink of war and a “secret agent” looking for the Blackett children’s uncle, real battles aren’t far away and their childhood paradise is turned upside-down.

My Opinion:

This movie is based on the classic book by Arthur Ransome. Okay, I admit it – I’ve never heard of this book. I’m sorry. Maybe it wasn’t famous outside the UK when I was growing up?? Well, we saw the trailer for this before Pete’s Dragon and my kid really liked the look of it. She actually didn’t like Pete’s Dragon at all (I did!) but she seemed genuinely excited about going to see this one after watching the trailer so we went the next week. Success! She really liked this one. Think the hubby quite liked it too. What a relief after they both pretty much hated Pete’s Dragon (I didn’t!). Swallows And Amazons is a great “family” movie & a nice break from the endless stream of animated kids’ films that come out every month.

My kid is seven & a good age for this one – I’d probably recommend it for ages seven & up. Ha! 7 Up… I only drink that if I have a stomach ache. Does anyone here drink it for pleasure? Seriously – I’m curious! And I’m trying to get out of doing a review. I’m finding movie reviews a chore at the moment.

There’s nothing inappropriate in this so you’re safe to watch it with the whole family. I just think that it may not hold the attention of those under seven & the really young wouldn’t follow the story (but it’s not aimed at that age group anyway). It’s set in the lovely Lake District area of the U.K. in 1935, which appealed to me as I think it’s good for kids to see how different life was in the old days. There’s no way that today’s kids could sail across a lake, set up camp, and fend for themselves alone on an island for a few days! Well, okay, I couldn’t do that either…

I read somewhere that, as this was a series of books like Harry Potter, they’re wanting to set up a series of films in the same way. Well, there’s no way they’d be as big as Harry Potter as the stories are obviously going to be far more simple but it’s a shame that I can’t see any more being made anyway. Maybe! I’d like to see more but it feels like this movie really wasn’t promoted at all & the showing we went to wasn’t very busy.

It feels like kids might not have the patience for a series of films set in the 1930s but that’s probably not fair to say as my own kid liked it far more than I was expecting. With the kids in this film being a range of ages with different personalities, I think those watching this will find at least one character they can relate to. The story of a group of kids trying to claim a deserted island as their own while also dealing with an angry & mysterious man who claims to be pirate should have fairly wide appeal, even to today’s youth. The movie isn’t perfect & I don’t think we get to know the kids as well as we could (especially the “Amazons”) but this would be remedied if they made more films. Which I doubt they will. But, hey – hopefully there’ll be a renewed interest in the series of books now.

My Rating: 6.5/10

*I did this movie as a double feature with Lights Out (which I went to alone afterwards without the kid, obviously!). How do you like that combo?? I’ll review that one next week. Have a nice weekend, everyone! 🙂

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! 🙂

The Kings Of Summer (2013)

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring: Nick Robinson, Moisés 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 & clichéd 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… 🙂