Friday, April 29, 2016

Private Number Movie Review – Don't Answer the Phone

Runtime: 95 minutes
Release Date: May 1, 2015
Rating: R
Director: LazRael Lison

Michael Lane had a rough life but recovered. Though he wrote a fairly successful book, he has a hard time sitting down to concentrate on his next novel. He manages to keep things together for awhile, but as more stuff happens, he finds himself having a hard time coping. His wife, Katherine, isn't helping either. Though he's been clean and sober for years and attends AA meetings, she just adds to his stress by constantly bringing up how much she wants to have a baby.

It doesn't help that he keeps fighting with his neighbor or that Katherine keeps inviting over friends he doesn't really like. The more stress he feels, the more he wants to start drinking again. That is when the phone calls start happening. The caller keeps asking if he remembers her and dropping hints about his past. When the person breaks into their home, they finally call the police for help, but the police seem less than interested in the case. As the calls keep coming and Michael learns more about a serial killer who targeted people in the past, he realizes that he may have a connection to those cases, which makes him turn back to the bottle again.

Looking at the cast list for Private Number might make you wonder if the casting director was drunk. Nicholle Tom, probably best known for her role on The Nanny, plays his wife Katherine, and Judd Nelson, who needs no introduction, plays the sheriff who has no interest in the case. We also get Tom Sizemore as Jeff, Michael's AA sponsor. Most actors only have a few scenes, which leaves the weight of the film on the shoulders of just two actors.

Nicholle Tom might be a great actress now, but you can't tell it going by this movie. Katherine is one of the worst wives in the history of the planet. Her character is so annoying that I wanted to strangle her myself. After he tells her that now is not a good time to have a baby and explains why, she literally throws herself at him and tries to seduce him. She spends the whole movie whining about how he's a horrible husband while still wanting to have a baby with him. She even threatens to leave him if he won't have a baby with her RIGHT NOW.

Luckily, we have Hal Ozsan as Michael. I really don't understand why this guy doesn't get more work! Some might not him for his role as director Todd on Dawson's Creek, but he's been in so many movies and TV shows that you'll recognize him as soon as you see him. He is perfectly cast as Michael. You buy him as a struggling writer who just wants some recognition, and you'll be on his side as he tries to unravel the mystery of his unknown caller.

Private Number has the type of ending that you can see coming a mile away. Even though I knew how it would end, I still wanted to keep watching. Ozsan does an amazing job of getting you caught up in the story and wanting to find out more about the mystery surrounding Michael. While Private Number got a lot of bad or poor reviews, I actually enjoyed it and would recommend you give it a shot.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Out of the Dark Movie Review – Surprisingly Poor

Runtime: 92 minutes
Release Date: April 10, 2015
Rating: R
Director: Lluis Quilez

Out of the Dark opens in the early 1990s. An older doctor gathers a group files and tries to set the papers on fire before hearing a series of noises that sends him running in terror. What looks like a group of children then come out of the darkness and chase him until he falls off a balcony to his death.

The film then jumps to Sarah and Paul in the present day. Sarah's father owns a large paper mill in the same town where the doctor once lived and offers her a high paying job. Though the two have a young daughter, Hannah, they think that the move will do them good. They continue thinking that, even after learning that they will be living in a large house far from the city. The two live here in the care of a sitter to explore the town and its annual festival.

When they return, they discover that some weird things happened that night. The sitter tells them that she thinks their house is haunted, which causes Paul to fire her. Hannah becomes incredibly sick and only gets worse. The mill doctor, the son of the doctor from the beginning, promises to help them. Though he does tests and draws blood, he claims that everything came back normal and that it's just a virus.

As Sarah becomes caught up in her work, she learns that several young children went missing two decades ago. Hannah becomes so sick that they finally decide to take her back home for help. Before that can happen though, a group of strange looking children with bandages on them lure Hannah outside and then disappear with her. Sarah then discovers that some of the kids who went missing had the same symptoms as Hannah and realizes that what happened in the past has a deep connection to the present day.

Let's get this out of the way. The main reason I watched Out of the Dark was for pure nostalgia. Julia Stiles of 10 Things I Hate About You and Save the Last Dance plays Sarah, and Scott Speedman of Felicity fame is Paul. Put either of them in anything, and I'll probably watch it. Sadly for me, that means I was stuck watching this.

The thing about Out of the Dark is that it doesn't really bring anything new to the table. I can't count the number of movies I've seen about parents moving to the country and something weird happens to their child. I kept waiting for something that would make me scared, make me worried, or at least make me care. I just didn't find anything I really cared about in this one.

Paul and Sarah have so little chemistry that it makes you wonder why they got married or had a child and why the hell he agreed to follow her to the middle of nowhere. They don't seem to care all that much about the fact that their daughter will grow up in some foreign country with no friends nearby and no knowledge of the language either. It ended up feeling like they didn't care, so why should we care either.

Even though I watched this one for free on Netflix, I wouldn't recommend it.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Exam Movie Review – In The Very Near Future...

Runtime: 101 minutes
Release Date: June 17, 2010
Rating: NR
Director: Stuart Hazeldine

In the very near future, or at least an alternate version of the near future, a group of young people sit inside a classroom and wait for instructions. We learn that there was a virus that struck a number of people in the world and that a company created a cure and now hopes to find a new employee. Those in the room are all in the running for that single job.

A man walks in, hands them each a piece of paper, and gives them instructions regarding what comes next. He tells them that they must find an answer to the question given, points to the paper, warns them not to talk to the guard standing by the door, and tells them not to mess up their papers. He asks if they have any questions before leaving.

Each of those in the room has a different type of strength, but they all have problems working together. White, who is your classic douche bag on campus, gives everyone nicknames based on their hair or skin color. Since they can't mess up their own papers, he steals the paper belonging to the man he calls Deaf because the man can't or won't talk. As they attempt to find a solution, White goes out of his way to ensure that each person gets disqualified. As time runs out though, it becomes clear that getting this job will involve thinking outside of the corporate box.

Exam is an interesting movie, but I'm not sure that I got it or that I liked it. The film starts out with several strangers stuck in the same room together, but it doesn't take long before they begin turning on each other. That doesn't leave viewers much time to get to know them or even decide who they like. White is clearly the worst of the worst. He goes out of his way to set up others so that they will fail and get kicked out of the competition, but he's actually one of the easiest characters to relate to in the film. Who wouldn't act just like him in the same situation? Though the others tend to scream at him or try to make him feel bad, you kind of want to root for him to win. It's like watching Survivor and wanting the quiet and meek girl who rode the coattails of a villain to actually win the competition.

The movie also gets a boost from the addition of Colin Salmon. As a newcomer to the world of Arrow – I only started watching the show and getting caught up last summer – it was nice to see him in a few brief scenes. The cold look that he carries around on his face makes you understand that this is a serious test from the opening scene. His no BS stance might even make you glad that you aren't in that room.

Other films attempted the small set atmosphere to poor results, but Exam actually does a pretty good job. All of the action takes place in this one single room, but there is so much action that you don't feel confined, and it won't leave you wishing that the film showed the characters outside of that room either. I think Exam is one of those films that you only need to see once though.

Exam is currently streaming on Netflix.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Trespass Movie Review – Typical Home Invasion Flick

Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: October 21, 2011
Rating: R
Director: Joel Schumacher

Sarah (Nicole Kidman) is you typical poor rich housewife. She's married to Kyle who works as a diamond broker and has a teenage daughter named Avery too. Kyle is on the road so much that Sarah finds herself spending more and more time home alone. She tells her daughter that she can't go to a party later that night, but the girl sneaks out of the house and goes anyway. That night, three men and a woman break into the house and hold the couple hostage.

The men reveal that they had an inside man working around the house the whole time. Jonah did some work on the house and learned that Kyle likely had a large number of cash and diamonds on hand. He also developed one hell of a crush on Sarah and fantasizes about the two of them running away together. Kyle reveals that despite making a call earlier in the night about a large number of diamonds he needed to sell that he actually has no money at all. He must also reveal to his wife that the diamonds she already owns are fakes.

Kyle claims that he lost so much money during the recession and as they had their large mansion built that he had to sell her precious stones to stay afloat. She's shocked, but so too are the robbers who need to get as much money as possible that same night. When Avery comes home early from the party after a bad encounter with a guy from school, she finds herself caught up in the middle of the robbery. With time ticking away, no one knows who will make it out alive.

I have a tendency to have way too many things in my Netflix list at any given time. I sometimes get it down to around 450 items, but it's usually closer to 475 or higher. While flipping through movies and shows in the middle, I remembered hearing about Trespass and wanting to see it. Now that I have, I probably could have left it there a lot longer.

Here's the thing, as great as Nic Cage is sometimes, he is sometimes really bad. Seeing him as a rich diamond broker is pretty hard to swallow. Seeing him married to a woman like Nicole Kidman makes things even worse. The two of them have so little chemistry that I had a hard time rooting for them to make it out alive. Given that she had way more chemistry with the actor playing Jonah, I actually got to the point where I wanted his story about the two of them having an affair to be true and actually wanted them to run away together.

All the other characters are pretty much the stereotypical characters you expect to see in a movie like this. You have the rough guy who isn't afraid of murdering everyone to save his own ass, the crack whore who just wants her next fix, and the annoying teenage girl who seems to screw up everything over and over again. The characters were so bad that I had a hard time finding anyone I wanted to root for, and I actually didn't really care if the house blew up and killed them all accidentally.

Despite having some big names, Trespass was an incredibly generic movie. There is very little to remember about the movie after seeing it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hush Movie Review – Deceptively Thrilling

Runtime: 81 minutes
Release Date: April 8, 2016
Rating: R
Director: Mike Flanagan

Maddie Young is the author of a best selling book who lives alone in the middle of the woods and is deaf. Her nearest neighbor, Sarah, comes over early in the night after reading her book and to talk about how she plans to take a new ASL class and wants her boyfriend John to join her. After Sarah heads home for the night, Maddie settles down and struggles to work on her next book. She also receives a few phone calls from Craig who we learn was her boyfriend up until a year ago.

While cleaning up the mess she made earlier in the night while cooking, Sarah frantically rushes to her door and finding it locked, beats against the door with her hands. When that fails to grab her friend's attention, she tries screaming. An arrow comes out from nowhere, pierces her chest, and she screams some more. An unknown man in a white mask comes out of the woods, attacks Sarah, and brutally murders her in front of the large french doors.

When the man realizes that Maddie cannot hear him, he sneaks into her house and steals her cell phone. She later gets several picture messages from her own phone that show her in various parts of her own home. After finally seeing the man outside, Maddie writes a message on the door that she won't tell anyone what she saw and that she has a boyfriend who will be there soon. In response, the man lifts his mask to reveal his face, tells her that she can now identify him, and claims that he can get inside anytime he wants. Hush then becomes a cat and mouse game between an unknown assailant with a crossbow and a woman just trying to survive the night.

Hush is one of the few movies I've seen recently that actually made me gasp and occasionally scream at my television. It was so dark and twisted that you can't help having some type of response. At one point, the man drags Sarah to the window and uses her beaten and bloody hand to knock on the window. When Maddie sees him, he then uses the dead woman's hand to actually wave to her. What kind of sick fuck does that kind of thing?

The best thing about this movie is that it doesn't do the classic thing of making her deafness become a disability. While she is deaf, it doesn't focus too much on her point of view in terms of making the scenes completely silent, but it does do a great job of actually making us feel for her and wanting her to survive, whether or not she can hear. When not watching horror flicks, I tend to make some girly choices like the television show Switched at Birth. It was amazing to see a film that actually shows ASL and features a strong character who is more than just another deaf girl.

Hush was so interesting that my boyfriend came in halfway through it, sat down to smoke a cigarette, and got so caught up in it that he forget he was supposed to take a shower. It's an incredibly powerful thriller that actually made me put down my phone to focus on seeing what happened next. Everything about this film was just amazing, from the actors to the music to the pacing. It's true proof that you don't need a lot of different sets or even a ton of cash to make a movie that resonates with viewers. This is the best horror film I've seen in a long time and well worth the five stars I gave it.

Hush is currently streaming on Netflix.

Friday, April 1, 2016

House of Wax – Cheesy Fun But a Little Too Long

Length: 108 minutes
Release Date: May 6, 2005
Rating: R
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

House of Wax opens in a home literally made of wax back in the 1970s. A woman is trying to feed a kid in a high chair when her husband comes in with a screaming and struggling second child. They strap him down before the movie jumps to the present.

Carly and her friends are on a road trip to a football game. She's seriously giving some thought to breaking up with her boyfriend Wade because she's about to move to the city and isn't sure she wants him to go with her or even if they should stay together. Her best friend Paige has problems of her own because she's late and thinks she might be pregnant by her jock boyfriend Blake who clearly won't marry her. Also along for the ride is their geeky friend Dalton and Carly's juvenile delinquent twin brother Nick.

To save money, the group decides to camp overnight on the side of the road. A truck pulls in later that night, shines its headlights on them, and acts like a tool before taking off. The next day, Carly and Paige go for a walk, Carly trips, and almost lands in a pit filled with dead animals. Though she thinks she sees a hand sticking out, it's actually a mannequin. A random guy shows up, shows her it's a mannequin, and laughs at her. When they find that the fan belt in Wade's car broke, the guy offers to take them for help while the rest of the group heads to the game.

Ambrose, the town he takes them to, is almost completely deserted. The only people they see are a few people inside their homes. They eventually wander into the church, interrupt a funeral, and find the Bo, the man who owns the repair shop in town. As he needs some time at the funeral, they agree to meet him later. This leads them to check out the wax museum in town, which they saw advertised earlier. It then doesn't take long before the group begins disappearing one by one and they learn that there is something sinister about the wax museum and the whole town.

The only thing anyone ever remembers about House of Wax is that it's the movie where Paris Hilton dies. I was literally just thinking that when I turned it on, the roommate sat down, and said the scene where she dies was the best moment in the movie. That's actually a little sad because she's not that bad of an actress. I thought she did an admirable job of playing a girl worried about the future and that the guy she loved might leave her. That said, yeah, it's actually pretty nice when she died!

House of Wax came out right around the time when studios were obsessed with PG-13 ratings, so I was a little surprised when I realized this was actually an R rated horror movie. Given the lack of gore, blood, and just plain deaths, it's hard to believe it didn't get a lower rating. The best death in the film – outside of Paris – is obviously Wade. When you see him sitting there covered in wax with his eyes moving, you can't tell me that didn't get to you. Add to that his best friend trying to “save” him by peeling off the wax to reveal the muscle and tissue underneath while his eyes still moved makes it one of the best scenes in the flick.

If you're like most people, you probably haven't seen House of Wax in years, but give it another go. It's a lot better than some of the crap Hollywood puts out today.