From the desk of The Movie Snob.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (B-). Somehow I missed this 2014 black & white foreign-language vampire flick during its original release, but happily a friend invited me to a special showing last night at the Alamo Drafthouse. (Actually I tried to talk her into seeing Logan instead, but she wasn’t having it. She’s been a big vampire fan ever since New Moon.) It’s a weird movie, but interesting. Our hero is some ordinary guy living in a bleak industrial town called Bad City. His father is a junkie, and a drug dealer takes our hero’s beloved car because dad can’t pay his debts. Then the drug dealer abuses a prostitute who works for him. This draws the ire of our vampire (Sheila Vand, Argo), an ordinary-seeming woman who ghosts around town at night and can sprout fangs in a jiffy. Later she menaces a little boy and takes his skateboard. After that she meets our hero after he has gone to a costume party (as Dracula!), and instead of making a meal out of him she actually seems to start liking him. But you’re never really sure if she’s eventually going to chomp on him or not; her affect is pretty flat. More stuff happens after that, in a slow, moody, artsy kind of way. It held my interest.
(I’m categorizing it as a foreign film because it’s in Farsi, but I have read that it was actually shot in California. The director, Ana Lily Amirpour, is Iranian-American.)
This was my first trip to an Alamo Drafthouse, and it was a pretty interesting experience. We got to our theater pretty early, and before getting to the real previews they showed a bunch of film clips and trailers from cheesy old horror movies back-to-back. It was fine to set the mood, I guess, but it made conversation difficult. I got food, which I seldom do at movie theaters, and got a mediocre Royale Burger with Cheese and some cold fries out of the deal. The seats were comfy, though.
The Movie Snob is creeped out—but not in a good way.
Split (F). I had not seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie since Lady in the Water, but it sounded like many critics were hailing this as a return to form, or at least the director’s best work in a long while. And I was curious to see good guy James “Professor Xavier” McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse) play the villain. So I decided to give it a try. I found that I agreed with the minority of critics who have criticized this movie as a nasty, icky, exploitative piece of work. McAvoy plays a fellow with multiple-personality disorder. At the beginning of the movie he kidnaps three teenaged girls and locks them up in some sort of industrial-looking subterranean labyrinth. He takes some of their clothes. He ominously warns them that they are going to become “sacred food” for “the beast.” In short, the threat of sexual violence is omnipresent. Making matters worse, child abuse and child sexual abuse are alluded to in some very unpleasant flashbacks. I hope the young co-stars (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch; Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen; Jessica Sula, TV’s Recovery Road) find better movies to star in. Much better.
P.S. I always like to make a note when I am the only person in the theater for a movie, and I think that was the case with this one. It was a few days ago, though, so don’t quote me on that.
A movie review from The Movie Snob.
Morgan (D). Okay, you are probably asking yourself, “Why did The Movie Snob waste his time with this poorly reviewed sci-fi thriller?” Basically, I saw it because it features Anya Taylor-Joy, who was quite good in the recent spookfest The Witch: A New-England Folktale, and I wanted to see more of her acting chops. Unfortunately, this movie was not a good showcase for anybody. Kate Mara (The Martian) stars as Lee Weathers, a corporate honcho sent to investigate an “accident” at a secret research facility under a spooky old backwoods house. Turns out that genetic experiments have resulted in the creation of Morgan (Taylor-Joy), a freaky smart and strong teenaged girl who is actually only 5 years old. And we all know how playing God with genetic experiments goes. There’s very little fun to be had, but it is sort of fun watching notable actors you didn’t know were in the movie pop up unexpectedly. Hey, there’s Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Spectacular Now)! And Paul Giamatti (Rock of Ages)! And that guy who played Agamemnon in Troy! But the movie is basically a stale retread of other movies, some better (Ex Machina, Hanna) and some not (Species). The ending is a real howler. Skip it.
The Movie Snob dishes up a new review.
10 Cloverfield Lane (B). I didn’t see Cloverfield, so I have no idea how or if this new movie dovetails with that one. But if you like your movies suspenseful with a side of intense paranoia, this may be the movie for you. The set-up is fast and intense. Within the first few minutes, an attractive woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed) flees her current boyfriend for undisclosed reasons, gets into a bad car wreck in the middle of nowhere, and wakes up in some sort of underground bunker. Her captor, Howard (a menacing John Goodman, Argo), insists that the world above ground has been destroyed in some kind of “attack”—possibly by Martians. Obviously he seems to be crazy . . . but is he? There are some parts when I just couldn’t suspend disbelief, but the movie generally managed to keep me in the moment. One final note: the theater where I saw the movie had the volume uncomfortably loud a lot of the time, to the point that I covered my ears sometimes. Maybe it was just the place where I saw it (a Studio Movie Grill), but be warned!
A new review from The Movie Snob.
The Witch: A New-England Folktale (B). I don’t usually do horror movies, but I decided to give this one a try because (i) it has been getting very good reviews, and (ii) it looked more spooky than really horrifying. It is pretty darned spooky, all right. It’s the story of a Puritan family recently arrived in 1600s New England. This crew is too puritanical even for the Puritans, and in the opening scene they are booted right out of the settlement. So William, Katherine, and their five kids load their meager belongings onto a cart and start a farm right on the edge of a deep, spooky forest. They pray all the time, constantly lamenting their disgusting sinfulness. Weird and unsettling things start to happen. We see the action mostly through the eyes of the oldest child, Tomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, Vampire Academy, looking much like a young Michelle Williams), a girl on the edge of puberty who scares her younger sister by claiming to be a witch. Director Robert Eggers adeptly amps up the tension with long blank cuts between scenes and haunting music. If you like eerie movies with a slowly building sense of dread, or if you are into the Salem Witch Trials, The Witch is the movie for you. (Rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity.)
The Movie Snob is disappointed.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (D). I love Jane Austen and I am pretty fond of zombies, so this seemed like a can’t-miss proposition: Take the characters, setting, and basic plot of Pride & Prejudice, add a liberal helping of brain-hungry undead, and mix well. I was unfamiliar with most of the cast, but I thought having lovely Lily James (Cinderella) play Elizabeth Bennet and an eye-patched Lena Headey (300) play Lady Catherine de Bourgh could only help the cause. I was right, but unfortunately the ladies’ charms can’t rescue this murky, mucky production. The scenes that are lifted more or less intact from the novel are all right, although I found Darcy (Sam Riley, Maleficent) underwhelming. The zombie scenes are uniformly a mess of quick cuts and unintelligible action. The additional plotline involving the zombies made no sense to me. I say skip it. If you’re craving love in the time of zombies, check out Warm Bodies instead.
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Crimson Peak (B). Horror movies aren’t usually my thing, but I have enjoyed some of director Guillermo del Toro’s past work (Pan’s Labyrinth, the first Hellboy). Plus, the three headliners are two top-notch actresses (Jessica Chastain, The Martian, and Mia Wasikowska, Only Lovers Left Alive), and the entertaining Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers). Anyway, this is a gonzo, over-the-top ghost story set back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, an attractive young lady and aspiring writer who occasionally sees freaky apparitions. She falls in love with Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), a mysterious Englishman who seems to be accompanied everywhere by his chilly sister Lucy (Chastain). Turns out that Thomas and Lucy are down-on-their-luck aristocrats who own a gloomy, falling-to-pieces mansion back in not-so-jolly England. Could the creepy old mansion, with a gaping hole in its roof and garish red clay oozing up from the ground below, be haunted? Are Thomas and Lucy hiding something? Do bears like honey? I didn’t think this was as strong a movie as the inventive but bleak Pan’s Labyrinth, but definitely it held my attention for a couple of hours. The R rating is well earned for some very strong violence and some pretty ghastly ghosts.