Netflix Film Review “A Stranger Outside” a.k.a. “Babysitters Nightmare” (2018) #NETFLIXREVIEWS @BRITT_UNDERWOOD @JAKEHELGREN @MARKGROSSMAN @JETJURGENSMEYER @SHANICAKNOWLES

imagine a Scary Movie where the wonderful Anna Faris and Regina Hall actually thought they were giving solid dramatic turns.

A baby-sitter finds herself trapped in a house playing cat and mouse with a masked serial killer. Sound familiar? A Stranger Outside is standard ’90s Scream-style shlock, albeit without the self-awareness. But it wins points for some interesting plot ideas. For example, the baby-sitter is really a nurse who has taken the gig as a way of getting some easy cash after suffering a career and confidence crisis due to the death of a vulnerable child in her care.

The first half of the movie was trite, and the acting was a little over-the-top, although our lead Brittany Underwood was giving a decent turn. The less said of the performances by her co-stars Mark Grossman (boyfriend Jeremy),  Michael Chandler (incompetent Dr Mixer), Jet Jurgensmeyer (baby-sittee Toby), or best friend Kaci (Shanica “No Relation” Knowles), the better. Things really fall apart in comedy style when the killer starts a-killing. The Scary Movie-like knife thrusts, slicing through pieces of paper, cowering beside counters, and hysterical screaming were beyond absurd; imagine a Scary Movie where the wonderful Anna Faris and Regina Hall actually thought they were giving solid dramatic turns.

This film is also oddly disjointed. The first half, a 90s throwback cliché, albeit mildly entertaining. The second half, a spoof movie not realising it’s a spoof movie. Indescribably awful, but in its awfulness, thoroughly enjoyable nonsense. A jumble of decent scenes and terrible scenes, passable acting and insanely awful acting, make for a diverting 90 minutes.

So bad it’s almost good. But not quite.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “The Invisible Guardian” A.K.A. “El Guardián Invisible” (2017) #NETFLIXREVIEWS #150WORDREVIEW #DoloresRedondo #ElGuardianInvisible #TheInvisibleGuardian

nature itself almost seems a character

A female inspector, Amaia (Marta Etura), battles both her own demons and against a religiously-inspired serial killer whose lust for murder shows no sign up letting up.

Set in the haunting, rain-sodden countryside of the Basque Country, nature itself almost seems a character in its own right as embodied by the mythological “Invisible Guardian” of the forest. But Pan’s Labyrinth fantasy this is not; The Invisible Guardian is gritty, and gut-punchingly real.

The beautiful cinematography brings alive the unique culture and atmosphere of the Basque Country. The acting is first rate. The story was tightly plotted and interesting with shades of the Wallander books. This is the first of three films based on Delores Redondo’s books. Crime fiction fans should give it a go, it might be mildly entertaining for the general viewer.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Star Trek: Picard Season One Review @SIRPATSTEW @STARTREK @STARTREKCBS #STARTREK #STARTREKPICARD

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the writers need to stop introducing deep story threads … and then resolving them … in one scene or through exposition.

Star Trek: Picard promised much, returning as it would to some of the franchise’s most beloved characters, notably Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself. The eponymous series starts with Picard in semi-comatose retirement, whiling his time away on his vineyard, when, suddenly, his retirement-cum-autoeuthanasia is rudely disrupted by a gatecrashing stranger with an extraordinary story.

The excitement of spending time with Picard and co again was mildly tainted by the stench that this was just an easy paycheque for Patrick Stewart. Plus, his rants on Brexit and Trump, even if you agree, boded badly for this series executive produced by the man himself; would this merely be Stewart in soapbox mode? However, these fears were unfounded. Picard got off to a slow but steady start, before launching into warp nine in the season’s second act, before stumbling and tripping in act three. Did it come off the rails? Not at all. But the ending was unworthy of the journey. The old characters were of course nice, but it’s the new characters that were refreshing: all the hallmarks of classic Trek characters, without feeling derivative. A great new batch of characters for the Trek canon.

If Game of Thrones is the yardstick (bar season eight) for streaming series, then ST:P isn’t quite the full 36 inches. But it’s not bad, either. Far from it. There was no single episode that you could call “poor”, although some were distinctly weaker than others. The worst episode was solid and serviceable; the best: first rate exciting television. This show could go far. But the writers need to stop introducing deep story threads and backstories and then resolving them within the very same episode, worst of all, in one scene or through exposition. This show seems more accessible to non-Trekkies than any other Star Trek series, including Discovery, but still seems Trek enough for Trekkies; maybe it’s found that Goldilocks zone that much of the franchise has failed to find.

All’s well that ends well? Yes. And if the finale had been stronger, season one would have gained a four star rating. But the box-ticking logic-chucking way the first season ended somewhat soured the thing. All in all, I am cautiously optimistic for season two. A good show for Trekkies and a good show for newbs.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

FILM REVIEW: HONEYMOON (2014) #NETFLIXREVIEW #HONEYMOON @HARRYTREADAWAY_ @RLESLIESOURCE

read the 150 word review here

I am a huge and borderline obsessive Game of Thrones fan. I mean, I don’t dress up and go to the conventions. And my bookshelf doesn’t boast a crumbling copy of David J. Peterson’s book Living Language Dothraki. But it certainly can’t be healthy for a 35 year old man to be repeatedly kept awake at night by an almost endless stream of fantasies where he inhabits the Game of Thrones universe as a key protagonist. How would I react if my dragons—-Wake up, Bryan, you pathetic manchild, and smell the early onset midlife crisis!

Given that context, it is very surprising to me that I somehow missed 2014’s Honeymoon starring as it does GOT‘s very own Ygritte, a.k.a., the ridiculously lovely Rose Leslie.

Leslie and co-star Harry Treadaway play head-over-heels-in-love newlyweds, Bea and Paul, who just can’t keep their hands off each other. We join them as they start their honeymoon in Paul’s family cabin in the woods. Our leads give believable albeit slightly off-centre performances, but their quirkiness brilliantly foreshadows the disturbing story to come. Paul wakes up to find Bea sleepwalking alone in the woods. Things start to fall apart quickly for the young couple as it becomes clear that something very bad happened that night.

But what happened in the woods that night? And what is happening to them now? The film never fully spells the answers out. There are many possible interpretations. Mine is extraterrestrial rape. And I think when read as an alien abduction film, Honeymoon surely ranks as the most terrifying examples of the genre that I have ever seen. Indeed, if alien abductions really do happen, this film paints a deeply convincing picture of the literally alien / otherly horror of that experience. Although I repeat: the interpretation of what happened is very open.

However, don’t get bogged down in the specifics of what actually happened to Bea. The events, alien rape or otherwise, are merely an incidental device to explore what can happen to a healthy and seemingly rock solid relationship when one partner is violated in some way. The actual violation could be viewed as unwanted pregnancy or perhaps the loss of one’s self to an illness such as Alzheimer’s. But I think this film pretty clearly had rape in mind. None-the-less, I don’t wish to suggest that this film was meant as an allegory of rape or some other specific traumatic violation. But merely that it examines a relationship after having undergone a (any) traumatic violation.

A brilliant and deeply unsettling film that gave me repeated goosebumps and made me shiver endlessly.

© 2017-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/db/Honeymoon_film_poster.jpg

NETFLIX FILM REVIEW “THE SON” A.K.A. “EL HIJO” (2019) #NETFLIXREVIEWS @JOAQUINFURRIEL @MARTINAGUSMAN @CIANOCACERES @HEIDITOINI @LEODAGO_ @LEOYSUBRAYO

there is a line between teasing the viewer and being a pricktease … frankly, this movie will leave you with blue balls.

Lorenzo is a middle-aged artist who is about to have a baby with his much younger, sweetly vulnerable wife Sigrid. But as soon as she falls pregnant, her behaviour becomes more and more distant, sinister even. Or– is it all in Lorenzo’s head? It’s only when the baby is born that Lorenzo and the viewer truly plunge headlong down the rabbit hole.

The film starts with a hot sex scene. Usually a bad sign. However, not so here: The Son was a tense psychological thriller, brilliantly acted by all. Lorenzo’s headspin into wretchedness and/or madness is masterfully constructed by Joaquín Furriel who is almost unrecognisable. Heidi Toini, who plays his Norwegian wife Sigrid, gives a brilliant performance which, like the candlestick-silhouette illusion, could equally be read in two completely different ways depending on perspective; is she an innocent and worried mother or is she a sinister evil plotter? Lorenzo’s best friends Julieta and Renato are equally magnificently played by Martina Gusman and Luciano Cáceres.

Candlestick, or silhouettes? The Son masterfully plays with our perception of reality.

I couldn’t breathe throughout I was that spellbound.

This is honestly one of the best movies I have seen in the last year or two.

It could also be one of the worst.

Why?

Despite being almost perfect, the ending lets it down. But not because it was obvious or forced or too twisty or too straight-forward. Rather, the film just ends. Abruptly. You’ll understand when you see the film, but it’s like it’s missing the last two minutes. All the plot threads are pulling together when the final incident happens and — we don’t get to see the resolution. I had to think about the ending. That’s not a bad thing, the old thinsky ambigui-ending. And I think I know what happened. No spoilers, of course. But then again, judging from other people’s comments, everyone seems to have interpreted the ending differently. There is a line between teasing the viewer and being a pricktease, and with The Son we’ve crossed it; frankly, this movie will leave you with blue balls. It’s actually unacceptable that a movie this brilliant in so many ways should end with the cheap, “We’re not gonna show you!” shot at ambiguity. The writer and director should have had the balls to pick one of the possible outcomes and go with it. I have to warn you: this film is magnificent, but the bad ending — no, actual lack of an ending — is pretty disgraceful and will be, for many a viewer, film-destroying. Perhaps the book on which it is based can shed some light.

So, four stars out of five, or two out of five? I’ll have to give it a three, the weirdest and most atypical three star movie ever.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “The Occupant” a.k.a. “Hogar” (2020) NetflixReviews

hard-hitting without moralising

In the 1990s, Javier Muñoz (Javier Gutiérrez) was a world-eating advertising executive. But twenty years later, he is washed up, yesterday’s man, and a joke to all in the profession. With mounting debts and no prospects, and in spite of the pleas of his suffering wife (Ruth DÍaz), Javier desperately clings to the scraps of his former enchanted life: the dream apartment, the car. But you can only run for so long. For most people, facing the music is a wake-up call to adjust their lifestyle and their expectations; for Javier, it’s a call which wakes up something far more sinister, an obsession which will not die.

The film is beautifully acted throughout, and our leads are deeply convincing. Not only Gutiérrez and his on-screen wife played by Ruth Díaz, but also the supposed dream couple Tomás (Mario Casas) and Lara (Bruna Cusí). Javier’s journey is front and centre, dramatic, and thoroughly believable. He manages to remain somewhat sympathetic, despite clearly sociopathic tendencies. It’s a testament to both the writing and the acting, not just of Gutiérrez but of his co-stars, that we retain a kind of complicit, twisted, semi-loyalty to Javier, and believe his character arc completely. The other characters’ journeys are no less important, and are equally convincing.

Where once he sold manufactured dreams to the masses, he now craves that dream himself, a truth beautifully referenced through the first and last scenes of the film. The film had a poetic elegance. It was hard-hitting without moralising, and unambiguous as to where right and wrong lie whilst still drawing us in to sympathise with the wrong.

A really wonderful movie, albeit with a somewhat sour ending which may not sit well with a Spielbergian audience. Not sure about the title “The Occupant”; the Spanish title Hogar “Home” fits much better.

4/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “Mirage” a.k.a. “Durante La Tormenta” (2018) #100WordReview #NetflixReview

A foreboding storm is the backdrop to the sad tale of a boy who witnesses a murder and who in fleeing the scene is run over and killed. Twenty-five years later, an eerily similar storm forms which seems to create a link to the past. Can Vera save the boy? And what consequences will follow from this?

Mirage is a mind-bending mystery crime time-travel film. Beautiful in every way. The ending is shocking and totally satisfying; it doesn’t wipe out our journey as time travel films often do.

5/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://image.tmdb.org/t/p/original/asnozZh17f4Rv9Ro1rETAEEAFOt.jpg

 

 

RIP Robin Williams: A Personal Tribute #RIPRobinWilliams #RobinWilliams

article originally published in 2014

[This post contains some language that may be deemed offensive]

No longer will we hear him scream his catchphrase Goood Morning Vietnaaaaam! – because his contractual obligations on that film expired more than 25 years ago, and he is dead.

RobinWilliams_article-2535891-1A80FA3A00000578-643_634x583

Hairy, bipedal, primate, Robin Williams, passed away on Monday. The ex-actor (dead, remember) and 1998 Academy Award Winner died from an apparent suicide. No longer will we hear him scream his catchphrase Goood Morning Vietnaaaaam! – because his contractual obligations on that film expired more than 25 years ago, and he is dead (See previous parenthetical comment).

My wife’s first reaction: “Nooo! Why not Brad Pitt instead…?” [1] Why not Brad Pitt, indeed: the question on everyone’s lips. My wife loved Robin Williams so much: he was her idol, second only to Patrick Swayze… “All my favourite people are dying… since I met you”, my wife eyed me suspiciously at breakfast as we heard news of Williams’s demise. Swayze’s death was long-coming and, although sad, completely expected. But when Swayze finally gave up the ghost (see what I did there? Also, note: the only thing funnier than a pun is a pun explained or pointed out), my wife didn’t let me get any sex for six months. Perhaps mentally picturing a dead man every time she let me have my wicked way was just a turn off for her. I’m terrified the same may happen now that Robin Williams is gone: what were you thinking, Robin!?

Robin-Williams-movie-poster-9pk-set-1
Robin Williams’s films helped define my childhood

But quite apart the imminent loss of nookie, I am genuinely in shock and very upset. How can you feel this for someone you’ve never met, never said “hi” to – this numbness and the sense that nothing is real or meaningful anymore? Robin Williams was 63, and I, a mere 29 (chronologically speaking, although physically my Wii Fit says I am 43), I have never known a world without him. Sure, I’ve never known a world without A. Robinson from Crosby-on-Eden in Carlisle, either [2], but the difference is I grew up with Robin Williams. His films bled into my mind and helped form my outlook on life – for better or worse(!) He was like a kindly uncle you’d see once a year, and who’d never fail to bring a smile to your face. Indeed, me being a member of Generation Y, Robin Williams and his films practically raised me as my parents couldn’t frankly be bothered to adequately balance work commitments with nurturing their sole sprog.

Bicentennial_man_film_posterThe eerie thing is this: the week leading up to his death, me and the wife randomly decided to binge on Robin Williams. We had a Robin Williams-athon: two and sometimes three of his films, every day, for a week. It’s like we almost knew what was coming as we drunk him in… it’s certainly difficult to deny that this constitutes overwhelming evidence for ESP. During this Robin Williams-athon, we rediscovered some films we’d forgotten about, and I broke down in tears at the conclusion of Bicentennial Man, having one of my periodic existential crises. I consoled myself with the knowledge that the film was based on a story by brainy sci-fi heavyweight Isaac Asimov, and that therefore it was intellectually valid to cry at a Robin Williams flick: truth be told, you made me cry so many times, you hairy, stout, hook-nosed, wonderful bastard!

My idols growing up – not just “guys I liked a bit” –, and I swear I’m not kidding: Rik Mayall (died two months ago), Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, and Rolf – seriously. Unlike the last two, however, Robin Williams didn’t enjoy (allegedly) touching up prepubescent cock and/or vag. He was by all accounts a giving and kindly man. Yet he had his dark side that we’re all hearing so much about now. But I don’t want to dwell on that: Robin Williams brought me so much joy, and that’s how I’ll remember him.

(Oh, I also idolised John Cleese, but nothing much has happened to him (the odd divorce aside), so mentioning him would spoil the dramatic point I was making).

MorkMindy
Mork and Mindy: not a funny show

I remember as a young child in the late eighties watching re-runs of Mork and Mindy, the show that launched Williams’ career. Not because it was a good show – it wasn’t: we watched it because there were only four channels in those days and it was raining outside. But I thank God he did make that programme or else the vastly superior semi-remake Third Rock From The Sun would likely never have been made at all (I imagine). And without Mork and Mindy, Robin Williams probably never would have broken through in quite the way he did, and for that reason too, I’m thankful for Mork and Mindy.

Thank you, Mr. Williams.

  • Thank you for inventing Flying Rubber (Flubber): I had a great day out that one time my aunty-to-be took me to the cinema in order to transparently ingratiate herself to me such that I would consent to her marrying my uncle.
  • Thank you for being the foil in The Birdcage and giving us a delicate, beautiful performance.
  • Thank you for Jumanji: this film inspired many a daydream, may have helped instil a love of boardgames which lasts to the present day, and I also won a t-shirt from a Jumanji themed Twister ice cream competition, a win I enjoyed as I was suffering personally at the time.
  • Thank you for the tender loving father and for the cross-dressing slapstick in Mrs Doubtfire.
  • Thank you for The Fisher King: your depiction of Parry was moving and the blurring of reality and fantasy which you portrayed so well meant a lot to a teen obsessed with the nature of reality and concerned by his own failing mind.
  • Thank you for Good Will Hunting: it was the first film of yours I saw which impressed upon me your incredible talent.
  • I want to say thank you for Hook, but it never quite did it for me. Think it’s because I’ve always kind of been suspicious of Peter Pan (and had long since conflated Peter Pan and Michael Jackson sleepovers in my mind). But, yeah, okay, for my wife’s sake: Thank you for Hook!
  • Thank you for Big… no, wait, that was Tom Hanks. Never mind.
  • Indeed, Thank you for every single film you ever made. That includes the odd dud, because even they meant I got to spend more time with you.

So, thank you, Robin Williams (I know he can’t hear me because of the aforementioned being dead and all, but these sorts of things are always addressed to the person regardless of how little sense that makes), thank you so much for all the laughs, all the tears. You touched my heart so many times. No, I’m not one of those people who became a teacher because of the Dead Poet’s Society [3], but you made a difference to my life, you made my existence richer and more joyful. I miss you already.

RIP Robin Williams
RIP Robin Williams: 1951 – 2014

References & Notes

[1] Funny ‘cos it’s true.

[2] http://www.thephonebook.bt.com/publisha.content/en/search/residential/search.publisha?Surname=Robinson&Initial=&Street=&Location=WARWICK+BRIDGE++%7b+Carlisle+-+CUMBRIA%7d&OriginalLocation=Warwick&Range=xloc

[3] I am actually a teacher, but I became one because I love dreary form-filling and taking abuse from colleagues and students.

featured image from http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/01/08/article-2535891-1A80FA3A00000578-643_634x583.jpg

“Robin Williams’s films helped define my childhood” image from http://www.krock1057.ca/files/Robin-Williams-movie-poster-9pk-set-1.jpg

Bicentennial Man image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicentennial_Man_(film)#mediaviewer/File:Bicentennial_man_film_poster.jpg

Mork and Mindy image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e7/MorkMindy.jpg

Robin Williams with a cap image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_williams

© 2014, 2020 Bryan Ashley James Parry

Netflix Film Review: The Boy Next Door (2015) #100WordReview #NetflixReview @TheBoyNextDoor @JLo #TheBoyNextDoor @ryanAguzman @Netflix @thefilmreview @ianmnelson95 @Lex_Atkins @KermodeMovie

a paint-by-numbers thriller-stalker ideal for playing cliché bingo

Having recently separated from her philandering husband, lonely teacher Claire (Jennifer Lopez) has a night of passion with her new next door neighbour: young, sexy-but-smart Noah (Ryan Guzman). Yet when Claire tells Noah she made a mistake, Noah won’t accept it and starts his reign of stalking terror.

Despite The Boy Next Door being a paint-by-numbers thriller-stalker ideal for playing cliché bingo, it’s very entertaining. Great pacing, logical follow-through, and the acting is mostly convincing — although Guzman increasingly hams as the tension rises.

A good film? No. Entertaining? Undoubtedly. Unoriginal and sometimes absurd, The Boy Next Door is a guilty pleasure.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review “My Teacher, My Obsession” (2018) #NetflixReviews

Rusty Joiner has a porn star’s name and a porn star’s body, and on this basis he was surely given the role.

Riley (Laura Bilgeri) moves with her father Chris (Rusty Joiner) to a new town for a fresh start. Struggling to make friends, she eventually joins forces with fellow loner Kyla (Lucy Loken). Things are going well as Riley’s personal life begins to blossom, until it becomes apparent that Kyla is obsessed with her father and will stop at nothing to have him.

My Teacher, My Obsession is a fairly standard obsessive stalker-seducer movie which brings little new to the game. Having said that, the plot is generally well constructed and the characterisation is relatively believable. However, Chris’ vulnerability and struggles to resist seduction by Kyla should have been set-up more convincingly. Also, Kyla’s mother’s naivety regarding her daughter’s true nature doesn’t quite ring true.

Rusty Joiner has a porn star’s name and a porn star’s body, and on this basis he was surely given the role. He isn’t a bad actor, but he was miscast. He was particularly unconvincing as a teacher and father, although he does grow into the role of tormented potential seducee later on in the film. The wardrobe department also flunked the exam; I found myself constantly distracted by the bizarrely ill-fitting clothing that Joiner was dressed in.

Laura Bilgeri and Jana Lee Hamblin (Kyla’s mother) were convincing, trying their best to find the throughline in this script which sometimes sagged.

All in all, this is an entertaining TV movie, bubble gum for the brain. Generally competent, if trite, though woefully miscast in the case of Joiner.

2/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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