Glass

Glass

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Luke Kirby, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A

After former security guard David Dunn tracks down and aids in the capture of The Horde, the savage alter ego of Kevin Wendell Crumb, he himself is arrested and placed in a mental institution with not only Crumb, but Elijah Price, the man who attempted to murder him nearly 20 years earlier. As the three are held, they are interviewed by Dr. Ellie Staple, who attempts to convince them that they do not, in fact, have super powers, and that the amazing feats they have accomplished are merely a coincidence.

The final movie in M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy is an excellent addition to the writer/director’s rocky filmmaking career. While his ending twist isn’t quite as shocking as his Sixth Sense reveal, it’s still enough to make you stop and think for a little while. Jackson and Willis slip easily back into the roles they haven’t played in two decades, and McAvoy again gives a scene-stealing performance as someone with multiple personalities. Sarah Paulson’s performance as the therapist tasked with convincing the others that there is no such thing as superheroes is well done and infused with just enough insistence to make you wonder if there’s something she’s not telling you.

The special effects are well done, and the background filler is not noticeable.

As stated before, this movie is a step towards Shyamalan’s previous status as a masterful storyteller. After years of missteps, he seems to be getting his feet back under him. Anyone who liked the previous two installments of this trilogy, ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Split’, should like this movie, though it’s not really necessary to watch them to enjoy it as they do a quick review of them in the movie. It should also appeal to anyone who’s a fan of the main actors, as well as anyone looking for slightly different type of action/drama.

Glass is not available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

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Everything, Everything

EverythingEverything

Directed By: Stella Meghie
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, Danube Hermosillo, Dan Payne, et. al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B

Seventeen year old Maddy has been raised in near-isolation due to having a compromised immune system. With her entire world thus far consisting of her mother, nurse, on-line support group, and the books she reads, she becomes drawn to Olly, the boy who has moved in next door. At first only communicating with him through text messages and e-mail, Maddy quickly finds herself falling in love. After several weeks of messages and short meetings when her mother isn’t around, Maddy decides that she’s tired of only reading about the world, and asks Olly come with her when she runs away to experience life for herself. However, after becoming ill on her trip, Maddy receives news that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her life and her illness.

While the basic storyline is typical of most YA novels and the movies made from them, this movie does a good job of showing just how far some parents will go to keep their child safe, and gives an eerie portrayal of Munchausen-by-proxy. Beyond that, the story is a typical boy-meets-girl trope that one finds in nearly every teen book/movie. Stenberg and Robinson, both rising stars in their own right, do a good job with the material they’re given to work with, and manage to make you care about their characters. The reveal toward the end of the movie is somewhat surprising, though you can sort of see it coming if you look for the signs.

What few special effects are used are pretty good, and the background filler goes unnoticed.

Like most adaptations of YA novels, this movie is more likely to appeal to teenage girls than anyone else. While the story is interesting and well the movie is well-made, it’s still something that won’t appeal to most people. Those who do enjoy it will likely be able to watch is more than once without tiring of it.

Everything, Everything is currently not available free to stream, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

NancyDrewHidden

Directed By: Katt Shea
Starring: Sophia Lillis, Zoe Renee, Mackenzie Graham, Andrea Anders, Laura Wiggins, Sam Trammell, Linda Lavin, Andrew Matthew Welch, et. al.
Rating: PG
Grade: A-

After moving to River Heights from Chicago following her mother’s death, Nancy Drew struggles to fit in. After one of her friends is bullied on-line, her plan to humiliate the culprit goes awry when she’s caught and forced into community service for the rest of the summer. However, she soon meets Flora, an eccentric older woman who claims that her house is haunted. Not one to ignore a mystery, Nancy agrees to look into the haunting for Flora, despite learning that her granddaughter is the girlfriend of the boy who humiliated Nancy’s friend. After experiencing the haunting for herself and finding evidence that a person is behind it, Nancy becomes determined to find out who is harassing Flora and what they want from her.

This version of Nancy Drew is far better than the previous attempt to translate the classic tween novels into a movie. It portrays Nancy as fallible and more human, instead of slightly obnoxious, overachieving perfectionist who’s always right. While it does make some significant changes from the novel (in the books Bess and George are cousins and Hannah is an elderly housekeeper instead of Carson’s sister) the movie is based on, they don’t detract from the story as a whole and shouldn’t bother anyone unless they’re a die-hard fan of the books.

The special effects are decent, and the background filler goes unnoticed.

Just about everyone should enjoy this movie. The story is interesting, and while it certainly won’t win any awards, it’s definitely better than it might seem on first glance. They manage to balance out modernizing the classic series and maintaining the mystery of the original source material. It’s also interesting enough that it shouldn’t grate on repeat viewings.

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase is currently not available free to stream, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

The Umbrella Academy

UmbrellaAcademy

Starring: Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher, Mary J. Blige, Cameron Britton, Adam Godly, Sheila McCarthy, Justin H. Min, Colm Feore, et.al.
Rating: TV-14
Network: Netflix
Grade: A

On one day in October 1989, 43 women across the world all gave birth at precisely the same time, despite the fact that none of them were pregnant when they woke up that morning. Eccentric scientist Sir Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of these children and trained them to be superheroes at what he called The Umbrella Academy. Years later, when the five remaining Hargreeves children reunite after their father suddenly dies, their ‘missing’ brother returns stating he is actually a 58 year old man trapped in his teenage body, and tells them they only have a week to prevent the apocalypse from happening. As they attempt to figure out what triggered the apocalypse, secrets are revealed and their bond as siblings is tested.

This is a somewhat refreshing take on the superhero genre, showing the consequences of raising superpowered children in relative isolation from the world, particularly when one of those children is raised to believe that they are the only ‘ordinary’ child amongst extraordinary siblings, as well as showing how growing up with powers affects them into adulthood. The acting is well done, and the actors playing the Hargreeves children all have decent chemistry. Aidan Gallagher does a good job playing someone older than they appear to be, and Ellen Page shows the thinly-veiled bitterness of being the only ‘ordinary’ sibling and the desperation to be thought of as an equal by her siblings.

The special effects are all well done, as is the background filler.

While this show won’t appeal to everyone, anyone who enjoys comic adaptations and superhero stories should enjoy it. The storyline is solid and there’s not much in the way of filler. It should hold up to repeat viewings without getting too old too quick.

The Umbrella Academy is currently only available to stream through Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

Breaking In

BreakingIn

Directed By: James McTeigue
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Ajiona Alexus, Levi Meaden, Seth Carr, et. al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: C+

After her father is murdered in broad daylight, Shaun Russell brings her children to the house she grew up in so she can finish packing his personal belongings and ready the house for sale. What she doesn’t realize is that her father’s murder was orchestrated so that a group of thieves could break into the house and steal $4 million Shaun’s father was keeping in a safe somewhere in the house. When her children are taken hostage by the thieves and used as leverage to get the location of the safe, Shaun goes on the offensive and does whatever she can to take out the intruders and rescue her children, hoping to stall them long enough that the security company will contact the police and report an issue.

This somewhat unfortunate, cookie-cutter thriller makes the best of what few assets is has, namely Gabrielle Union and Billy Burke. Union’s steely, mamma-bear determination seems to be a decent fit for the actress, and Burke seems to be thoroughly enjoying playing the cold, calculating sociopath. Their respective performances are almost enough to let one overlook some of the gaping plot holes peppered throughout the film, the largest of which is the general timing of the movie. They don’t specify how long after her father’s death that Shaun is selling the house, which doesn’t explain why the thieves waited so long to break into the house to look for the money. Of course, the simplest explanation is that there wouldn’t be a movie then, but it still somewhat irks me.

What few special effects used in the movie were decent, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

While not great, the movie is easily watchable. The oversimplified plot lends towards casual watching without missing much in terms of story. As stated before, Union and Burke are the bright spots, taking their roles and running wild with them. This also manages to create a movie that can be watched more than once for when you’re bored and just want something on in the background as noise.

Breaking In is currently only available free to stream if you have HBO, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

The Possession of Hannah Grace

PossessionOfHG

Directed By: Diederik Van Rooijen
Starring: Shay Mitchell, Grey Damon, Kirby Johnson, Nick Thune, Louis Herthum, Stana Katic, Maximillian McNamara, Jacob Ming-Trent, et. al.
Rating: R
Grade: C+

Fresh out of rehab, former police officer Megan Reed takes a job as a night-shift intake clerk for the local morgue. When she receives the disfigured corpse of a young woman named Hannah Grace, Megan begins to see and experience strange things like equipment failure and items moving on their own. Sure that she’s just imagining things in the cold, quiet, labyrinth-like facility, Megan ignores her unease and attempts to continue to do her job as best she can. When a strange man breaks into the facility and attempts to destroy the corpse, Megan is forced to subdue him, but not before he claims that Hannah Grace is possessed. Deeply unsettled, Megan does her best to continue her job, but soon, people go missing and are found dead, and Megan notices impossible changes to Hannah’s corpse. Soon fighting against time, Megan soon realizes that she needs to make sure Hannah Grace stays dead.

While incredibly creepy on first watch, there are very few true scares in this movie, which seems to mostly rely on jump-scare tactics to get a reaction, instead of letting the viewer contend with their growing unease. The plot itself is somewhat original, giving us what would ordinarily be a layperson’s point of view in a possession movie, rather than the priest fighting to save an innocent soul, though they never do explain why Megan isn’t killed by the demon possessing Hannah. Shay Mitchell manages to hold her own for the most part. It’s her first major role post-Pretty Little Liars, and it’s also her first time anchoring a project on her own. She comes off as a bit young for the role, but it also manages to work in her favor a bit.

The special effects are pretty good, and the background filler goes unnoticed.

Anyone who likes slightly watered down horror movies should enjoy this. The plot’s not terrible, and neither is the acting. One of its saving graces is that it could possibly turn into a movie incredibly repeatable for background noise, or when you just want to watch something slightly cheesy.

The Possession of Hannah Grace is currently only available free to stream if you have Starz, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Monster Party

MonsterParty

Directed By: Chris von Hoffmann
Starring: Sam Strike, Virginia Gardener, Brandon Micheal Hall, Kian Lawley, Erin Moriarty, Robin Tunney, Julian McMahon, Chester Rushing, Jamie Ward, Lance Reddick, et. al.
Rating: NR
Grade: B+

When a trio of low-level thieves decide to infiltrate a high-end party at a rich family’s home by posing as caterers, the last thing they expect is that the party is actually an annual meeting for recovering serial killers. However, when one of trio proves to be too tempting a target for one of the guests, all hell breaks loose. After the house is put into lockdown, the remaining two attempt to navigate household, and find they have no choice but to trust the daughter of the party’s hosts, who claims not to share in her family’s bloodlust. As time ticks by, the unlikely allies find they have no choice but to fight back if they want to make it out alive.

Sometimes all you need is a movie that gives you exactly what you expect of it, and perhaps a little bit more. This B-grade horror/thriller may not have any deep meaning or late-stage twists, but what it delivers is a refreshingly honest, original movie about the difficulties of overcoming addiction, no matter what that addiction may be. While most of the ‘monsters’ slip effortlessly back into their old ways, Robin Tunney’s Roxanne visibly struggles with temptation, and Lance Reddick’s Milo uses an iron-clad grip to keep his at bay. Erin Moriarty’s Alexis, the ‘sober’ family member displays the struggle of being the responsible family member who has no taste for the rest of the family’s drug of choice.

The blood effects used in the movie were decent, and the background filler isn’t really noticeable.

Parts of the movie tend to lean more towards drama than horror, but it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyable experience. I’m not quite sure what I initially expected when I watched the movie, but what I got was pleasantly good movie that anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of a bloodbath should enjoy. There are very few scenes with graphic gore, though a good portion of the movie is soaked in blood. The movie itself is enjoyable enough that you probably wouldn’t mind watching it more than once.

Monster Party is currently not available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

The Boy (2016)

TheBoy

Directed By: William Brent Bell
Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Ben Robson, et. al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B-

American Greta Evans takes a job as a nanny for Heelshire’s, a couple in the English countryside with an 8 year old son. When she arrives, however, she discovers that the “boy” she’s meant to be caring for is actually a life-sized doll named Brahms, after the couple’s deceased son. After getting a basic rundown of Brahms’ daily routine and meeting the grocery delivery person, a charming man named Malcolm, who is also the only other person allowed in the house, Greta is given a strict set of instructions regarding Brahms’ care, and is left alone with the doll. After following her own routine for a few days, Greta begins to notice strange things happening in the house, such as the doll and other things moving seemingly of their own accord. Confiding in Malcolm that she thinks the doll may actually be alive, she is told the story behind Brahms’ death, and that he may not have been the sweet child the Heelshire’s claim him to have been. After Greta receives an unexpected visitor, the terrifying truth behind the incidents in the house is revealed to be far worse than she or Malcolm thought possible.

This is another movie that should have been far better than what the final product turned out to be. What was intended to be an intense psychological thriller was watered down to a stereotypical semi-horror/thriller. After reading what the original idea for the movie was, I’m almost certain that it would have far better, and scarier, than what was actually released. The acting is okay. After several years on The Walking Dead, Cohan has adapted well to acting in horror scenarios, and her American accent is solid. The American accent of the actor who plays her ex, however, is choppy and mottled, but he’s not in very many scenes so it doesn’t detract from the story. The other actors are using their natural accents.

There are little to no special effects beyond background filler, and that isn’t noticeable.

If you don’t mind low-grade thrillers, then you’ll probably like this movie. Enough of the original story is retained that it’s not completely predictable. It also doesn’t rely solely on jump scares to get a reaction. It’s a decent effort to create an atmospheric movie, and, in part, it succeeds. After an initial viewing, it could definitely be used as background noise for someone who doesn’t want to sit in silence, but doesn’t want to worry missing out on the plot details of a newer or more complex story.

The Boy is currently not available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

ProfessorMarston

Directed By: Angela Robinson
Starring: Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Connie Britton, Monica Giordano, JJ Field, Chris Conroy, Oliver Platt, Maggie Castle, et. al.
Rating: R
Grade: B+

Professor of Psychology and inventor, William Moulton Marston, finds his life turned upside down after a three-way affair between himself, his wife Elizabeth, and their assistant/mistress Olive Byrne gets them all kicked off the Harvard campus. Needing purpose after losing his livelihood, Marston attempts to make a living as an author, eventually coming up with an idea for the superhero Wonder Woman, through which he would attempts to instill his, at the time, unheard of and highly controversial theories about psychology and sexuality into the mainstream. However, after his private life is once again made public, Marston fights not only to keep control of his creation, but to keep his unusual family intact.

This movie had the potential to be something great. Instead, it seems to be attempting to ride to coattails of the success of the Wonder Woman movie. It focuses less on the creation of the heroine, and more on the unusual sexual practices of her creator, with an unnecessarily long section of the movie dedicated to the trio discovering and engaging in light BDSM and roleplay. The storytelling format is something of a stilted flashback, with large portions of the story being broken up by Ethics Board meeting Marston is attending until the movie catches up with itself. The acting is well-done. Despite that all three lead characters are American, only Heathcote manages to completely mask her accent. Evans’ accent only slips occasionally when his voice is raised. Hall, however, can’t seem to find a grip on her accent, though it doesn’t really detract from the story itself.

The effects are almost entirely background filler, and are not really noticeable.

The movie itself isn’t entirely a wash. So long as you can look past the, in my opinion, unnecessary focus on polyamorous relationship, it’s interesting to see the circumstances that led to the creation of the world’s first, and still most popular, female superhero. However, like most based-on-a-true-story movies, there are some dramatizations made, and it should be noted that descendants of both the Marstons and Olive Byrne have denied the nature of the relationship between the three presented by the movie. That aside, someone looking for an interesting drama based on the real events that led to the creation of a superhero should like this movie.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is currently free to stream through Hulu, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

A Simple Favor

SimpleFavor

Directed By: Paul Fieg
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Linda Cardellini, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, Andrew Rannells, Kelly McCormack, Aparna Nancherla, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B

When over achieving mommy-vlogger Stephanie meets sleek, effortless Emily, the last thing she expects is a fast friendship filled with martini lunches and near-daily play dates between their two sons. However, when Emily goes missing after asking Stephanie to watch her son, Stephanie takes it upon herself to not only investigate the disappearance, but make sure Emily’s family is well cared for. As the plot behind Emily’s disappearance thickens, Stephanie finds herself in a twisted web of secrets and lies as she attempts to unravel the mystery she has found herself inextricably entangled in.

So far as recent crime thrillers go, this one mostly holds its own weight. While director Paul Fieg is mostly known for his comedies, he manages to create an almost noir-ish atmosphere with the movie. The plot is mostly solid, and the actors all work well together. Kendrick and Lively slip into their roles well, and Golding has decent chemistry with both. The actors playing the children handle their roles well, too, especially considering that the content can get heavy at times. The contrast between the brightly-lit suburban setting and the dark nature of the story is an interesting narrative device and makes already uncomfortable subjects just a bit more so.

Nearly all of the effects are background filler, and are not noticeable.

Anyone looking for a decent mystery thriller should like this. While parts of it lean toward predictability, it mostly manages to stay a step ahead of the viewer, and the ending is clever. As with all R-rated titles, parents may want to watch the movie before allowing young kids to see it. Anyone wanting to watch the movie again should be able to do so without getting bored.

A Simple Favor currently is not free to stream, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.