Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Top Ten Movies to Watch With Your Mother This Mother’s Day.

Grab your Hallmark cards and call the florist to put together a sweet bouquet because, once again, another Mother’s Day is upon us.  While some might look at this day as just an excuse from the greeting card company to sell more cards, you can also use it as an excuse to watch some fun movies. There are movies for just about every mood and every genre. Call your mother or just sit back and relax for a Mother’s Day movie night in spirit. You will be certain to enjoy at least one of these classics:

10. Psycho- Norman Bates runs a motel with his mother. Norman is a dedicated and devoted son; the problem is that his mother has been dead for years and he has mummified her corpse. Norman has regular conversations with his mother which makes for a shocking discovery to find out she’s been dead for years. He suffers from multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia that causes him to dress like his mother and murder in a fashion he thinks she would. It’s a classic Alfred Hitchcock horror story and filmed incredibly well. This is a film that shows a lot skill in character, music cues, and exposition. It is also arguably one of the first slasher movies so it holds a prestigious place in horror history as well as Mother’s Day classic.

9. Throw Momma From the Train- A writer named Larry who is suffering from writer’s block and a terrible ex-wife, meets a strange man named Owen in a writing class.  Owen has a comically abusive mother. After seeing the movie Stranger’s on a Train, Owen and Larry decide to murder for one another.  Owen will kill Larry’s wife and Larry will kill Owen’s mother. Of course the problem is that Owen’s mother is not exactly easy to put down. Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito have a really wonderful chemistry. It’s a very dark comedy and worth seeing.

8. Terms of Endearment- Grab the tissues because you will need them after this movie. In a nutshell, the movie is about the relationship between a mother and daughter as the daughter goes through ups and downs in her life.  Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson bring great performances.  It covers a lot of life subjects and does so in a very authentic way- subjects like cheating, cancer, death, aging, and so much more. Aurora and Emma’s trials and tribulations are addressed and shown with the dignity and respect they deserve.

7. Changeling- Angelina Jolie stars in this Clint Eastwood directed film inspired by real events in 1928. A boy is kidnapped from a single mother, played by Angelina Jolie.  The son is eventually returned but it is soon discovered that he is an imposter. When she tells the authorities she knows the boy is not her son they put her in the psychopathic ward of a mental institute.  Eventually, she fights to figure out what became of her son. The atmosphere is appropriate for the time period going right into the Depression era imagery. Angelina Jolie brings a very vulnerable performance that works with the desperate tone of the film. It’s an impressive story of struggle and vindication.

6. We Need to Talk About Kevin- This movie follows Tilda Swinton as a mother of a boy who goes on a killing spree that ends in a school massacre.  It shows flashbacks of the mother, Eva, raising the baby, Kevin.  Eva has very little emotional connection to Kevin. Kevin shows many signs of sociopathic behavior but no one sees him for what he is except his mother.  Eva tries to convince her husband to see Kevin for the monster that he is, but her attempts fail and her distrust creates a rift in her marriage. Eventually Kevin kills a great many people.  Eva is hated by many of the families in her town and she is confused as to where she went wrong with her son.  All the while she still attempts to show him affection and understand him despite his horrible actions.  It is a fascinating and terrifying story.

5. Mother’s Day- This is the 2010 remake of the 1980 film of the same name. A group of criminals invade the home of a suburban family that is having a party. While looking for money that is supposed to be hidden in the home, the leader and mother of the invaders, played by Rebecca De Mornay, arrives.   She steals the show by playing a mix of sweet, reasonable, deadly, and manipulative. There are elements that border on torture porn. For example, poring boiling water into a man’s ears. The dynamic characters make an otherwise dull concept and turn it into creepy thriller.

4. Mommie Dearest- The story of Joan Crawford’s (played by Faye Dunaway) journey through motherhood. Told from the point of view of Joan’s daughter Christina Crawford, we see that Joan Crawford was very emotionally unstable and very controlling.  The acting is fantastic and because of it, the movie is very quotable. Most people remember the infamous “no more wire hangers” scene where Faye Dunaway beats her daughter with a wire hanger. This is a fascinating dark drama that reveals the underbelly of a Hollywood legend.

3. The Kids Are Alright- Motherhood from the point of view of a lesbian couple. One of their two kids begins looking for their biological father and is eventually contacted by him. The family gets thrown into turmoil as this new element is added to the mix.  Annette Bening is fantastic in her role.  She is believable in all her vulnerability and her anger at the situations that arise from the new interloper coming into her family. The Kids Are Alright address situations that are not commonly seen in movies, such as the positive portrayal of gay parenting. This movie confronts realistic conflicts that would occur in a modern household rather than creating an over-the-top, stereotypical portrayal of gay parents: the son wondering why the moms are watching gay porn; the morality of Julianne Moore’s character cheating on Annette Bening with the children’s biological father; the controversy Moore’s character causes by having sex with a man.

2. Serial Mom- A typical suburban housewife, played by Kathleen Turner, who just happens to be serial killer. In this dark comedy by John Waters there are loads of great jokes, gore, and many other jabs at suburban normality that we have come to expect from Waters. For example, after her daughter is stood up for a date she finds the boy at a swap meet and murders him with a fire poker. If your mother is not opposed to some light gore then this might be a perfect one to watch with her on Mother’s Day.

1. Brave- Pixar’s Brave is not only a visually lovely movie but also an overall incredible story.  Princess Merida and Queen Elinor have a struggling relationship. After a bit of magic from a bizarre witch, the Queen is turned into a bear. In order to restore things back to normal, they need to overcome their differences and learn to see things from the other’s point of view. Such things include having the Princess learn to use diplomacy and the Queen learning how to hunt.  They manage to find a way to mend their relationship and grow from the experience. It is a very sweet and lovely movie, perfect to deepen the bond between you and your mother.

These movies are all just ideas to uphold the spirit of Mother’s Day. If you really would like to make the Mother’s Day special, make sure to invite your mother to watch these gems with you. If nothing else, they will at least spark some interesting conversations between the two of you. Just remember that some of the movies require your mother to have a sense of humor or a love of the bizarre and horrifying.  Whatever movie you decide to watch, be sure to appreciate your mother and have a safe and lovely Mother’s Day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Oculus – review

Oculus is a horror film directed by Mike Flanagan who directed the impressive Absentia.  While the script is a bit weak at times, the story is fascinating and makes a very fun ghost story. The acting is also done really well considering the somewhat mediocre script. The editing must have been a daunting task, given the constant back and forth in the storyline between the past and present.

Eleven years after the murder of her mother and father, Kaylie, played by Karen Gillian, seeks out to prove that the mirror in her house was haunted. Kaylie is sure the mirror possessed her parents and drove them to kill one another.  Her brother Tim, played by Brenton Thwaites, meets with her in their old house to help confirm her claims. Between memories of their childhood prior to their parents’ demise and the illusions the mirror entraps them in, Kaylie and Tim begin an uphill battle in order to destroy this mirror.

The acting in this movie is genuine. Rory Cochran and Katee Sackhoff do a great job playing parents who are slowing driven insane from the mirror (much like Gollum with the ring of power).   The effects are dynamic, creating genuinely creepy moments.  The mirror has the ability to absorb energy from living victims, conjure ghosts, and induce haunting illusions, which makes a really fun concept.   

The weakest part of the movie is that the script was written with some clumsy dialogue. During the first scene that Kaylie and Tim share, their expository dialogue comes off forced and unnatural. Once things in the plot begin to pickup, the dialogue reaches a good stride and becomes really interesting.

Oculus is a good film. If you are a horror fan it is certainly worth a rental or a matinee. Oculus is a fun movie acted by believable actors. The movie shows quite a bit of skill and conceptually it is very clever. Oculus is enjoyable and will make even the more hardened horror fan squirm in their seat.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Review

The Avengers and Captain America: The First Avenger gave us a taste of the patriotic superhero of Marvel comics past and his fish-out-of-water story.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes that story and expands it in a clever new direction.  Changing from a rough and tumble story of action to a story of espionage.

After the events of The Avengers film Captain America, played by Chris Evans, is still doing missions for S.H.E.I.L.D.  Not happy with the secrets that the government keeps from the solders in field, Captain America finds that Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, and Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, are compartmentalizing missions of S.H.E.I.L.D. and keeping vital information from other members of the team. After a mysterious assailant attacks Nick Fury for a USB drive retrieved during a recent mission, Captain America must uncover a massive conspiracy within the military organization.

The acting is great.  Chris Evans is still a believable hero and his chemistry with Scarlett Johansson is really fun to watch. Anthony Mackie as the Falcon is a welcome addition.  He seems like a natural extension for the Captain America character.  Even Samuel L. Jackson brings his A-game and gives his usual passive character a more heroic face and adds a great deal to the action.

The story is really fascinating. Going into a story of deception, betrayal, espionage, and action. It is a fascinating and dark follow up. With so many twists and turns you won’t know which character in the movie to trust. For this reason, seeing the first film is beneficial. However, this new film does a nice job of reminding the audience of important characters from the previous film.  

If you are a fan of superhero movies this is certainly a good one to watch.  It takes a concept well beyond the origin story and gives audiences a truly fun and original take on government and freedom vs. security.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is certainly worth seeing in theaters. Just remember to stay after the credits, as there are scenes that hint at the Avengers: Age of Ultron.