Film Review “Mother!” #NetflixReview @MotherMovie @DarrenAronofsky

I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Sadly, I don’t ever want to set my eyes on it again.

Mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as “Mother”, a devoted wife to emotionally damaged artist “Him” (Javier Bardem) who is suffering a debilitating bout of writer’s block. She single-handedly rebuilds his childhood home, which had mysteriously burnt down, in the hope that this idyll in the middle of nowhere will reignite his creative, and perhaps even sexual, passions. However, this paradise-in-the-making is disturbed as a series of unexpected random visitors pay them a visit from out of nowhere, to catastrophic results. Weird, unique, challenging: director Darren Aronofsky is back.

The acting from Lawrence, Bardem, and Michael Pfeiffer is topnotch, perhaps even Oscar-worthy. Ed Harris is pretty special in this, too. They really are on top of their game here. The set up and first third of the film is wonderful, classic almost Twilight Zone mystery territory: who are these people, what do they really want, and why is everyone — including her husband — acting so off? The film is both a pensive slow-mover and at the same time a rocket-charged rollercoaster. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

Sadly, I don’t ever want to set my eyes on it again. The film totally goes off its rocker after an unfortunate incident occurs in the house. The imagery and the acting and set design were magnificent and brutal. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None-the-less, any pretence of story is launched through the window (or the wall) with all the ferocity of Yuriy Sedykh’s hammer throw at the 1986 European Championships. It makes no sense, nor does it want to. Aronofsky is a challenging but brilliant filmmaker (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, Pi), but this film just eats itself in pretension (you already noticed the “names” of our two protagonists, didn’t you? “Mother” and “Him”). Both totally open-ended and easy to interpret any way you want — as per our writer’s own work (ooooh meta) — and yet incredibly straight-forward, this movie doesn’t so much think it’s cleverer than it is, but rather it doesn’t give a flying f***. Frankly, it’s bonkers, but in a way that makes no sense (in contrast to Aronofsky’s previous works).

As I have said, this movie has genuine Oscar contender vibes. So why only two stars? Because story has to come first, that’s why; a movie that tosses story out of the window to go down some kind of nightmarish drug trip which makes no sense at all, cannot have a “good” rating no matter how undoubtedly brilliant aspects of the film are. The last section of the film began to genuinely test my patience with its out-and-out nonsense. Being a visionary director who has succeeded in getting first rate performances out of his team is not an excuse for self-wallowy rubbish.

2/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Hypnotic” (2021) #NetflixReview #100WordReview

entertaining bit of brain bubblegum

A young woman overcoming a broken relationship begins seeing a renowned psychotherapist. However, when he cracks open a can of hypnotism in their intense sessions, things go dangerously off the rails.

The publicity photos and tag line (“His wish is her command”) essentially give away the story. However, the moment we lay eyes upon our hypnotherapist, we know what’s going to happen; his motives are transparent, his sliminess obvious.

This is an entertaining and capably acted flick. It’s no classic, though. A nice light entertaining bit of brain bubblegum.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Below Zero” a.k.a. “Bajocero” (2021) #NetflixReview #100WordReview

[we’re] parts of an essentially uncaring machine.

Prison Officer Martin (Javier Gutierrez) is driving across country to deliver a batch of prisoners to another facility when, suddenly, him and his partner Montesinos (Isak Ferriz) find themselves under attack by an unknown assailant (Karra Elejalde). Face almost certain death by leaving their armoured vehicle, or remain locked inside as the inmates threaten to riot?

Below Zero is an action-packed crime story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The ending, particularly the last moment where we see Martin look at his locker, brings home how everyone involved — officers and prisoners — are just parts of an essentially uncaring machine.

4/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Review “The Guilty” (2021) #200WordReview #TheGuilty #NetflixReview

you’ll need to follow this movie up with something suitably light, such as four straight hours of back-to-back Blue’s Clues and You, just to take the edge off it.

Jake Gyllenhaal is a burnt-out cop, Joe Baylor, who’s been demoted to the 911 call centre pending an investigation into his alleged misconduct. Between abusive callers, crank callers, and non-emergency timewasting callers, Joe’s car wreck of a life — oh yeah, his wife’s left him and taken the kid, too — finds temporary sharp focus when a kidnapped woman calls without the knowledge of her abductor. Joe throws himself into a race against time to find and save this woman before it’s too late.

The Guilty is a truly breathtaking thrill ride. A kind of Donnie Darko does ‘The Call’ (review here), The Guilty is a film of disturbing twists and turns both within Joe’s fractured mind and out there in the real world. We are taken on a journey through the morally ambiguous nature of all people without losing clear sight of objective morality, all in a non-preachy way.

This is somewhat dark film that may be a bit of a downer for some. Certainly, you’ll need to follow it up with something suitably light, such as four straight hours of back-to-back of Blue’s Clues and You, just to take the edge off it. But art, like life, ain’t always pretty.

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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HEATH LEDGER RIP #HeathLedgerRIP

This article was originally published the day after Heath Ledger died. It was my way of coping with a celebrity death that genuinely shook me. Fourteen years later, I repost it. Read the original editorial note below to understand what I was trying to do here. Enjoy.

Editorial note: A slightly surrealistic spoof of a tabloid article in the style of The Sun or somesuch. The paper is temporarily called The Fun.

–       Bryan A J Parry (23/1/08)

HEATH LEDGEND

ACTING HYPERSTAR HEATH LEDGER, HEREAFTER KNOWN VARIOUSLY AS HEATH LEDGER, HEATH, HEATH LEDGEND, OR “THE LEDGE”, HAS DIED. However, unlike in Heath’s blockbuster smash “The Brothers Grimm”, this isn’t all just a scam set up by conmen wiggling some duvet covers from the rafters and going “woo” a bit. He really is dead.

His brief but glamorous career saw him play such diverse roles as a knight in shining armour in the to be posthumously renamed “Heath Ledger’s A Knight’s Tale”. Whereas “Brokeback Cowboy” saw The Ledge playing the part of a gay cowboy who became crippled in a freak riding accident. And his last ever film, “The Dark Knight” (starring Batman, not Trevor McDonald as stated in yesterday’s The Fun), in an ironic twist of fate, has Ledgend play the part of the affable joker, a far cry from yesterday’s events, as nothing is less funny than dying. Life imitating art? No.

“The Dark Knight” will be on general release on pirate in the Spring. Turn to page 8 for your first six, free Heath Ledgend-shaped Bat-tokens.

The world of celebritydom was devastated.

Deranged racist Mel Gibson took a moment to reflect amid his hectic schedule of evangelising to say something decent for a change.

“As an Australian [and white], it is painful to hear of the death of a brother [and fellow milk-skin]. My thoughts and prayers, and the thoughts and prayers of my wife, my children, my church, and my fans are with him”.

Gibson, 52, went on to say how he is considering the viability of a bioflick based loosely around Heath Ledgend’s life.

“It will probably have him [ = Heath “The Legend” Ledgend] reprising his role as William Thatcher from ‘A Knight’s Tale’, but twisted and enraged by the death of his brother in my civil war masterpiece ‘The Patriot’. It’s probably gonna be necessary to computer animate it, and I’ve been talking to Dreamworks about this”. When asked if having a dead man star in his own production was even possible, Gibson shrugged his shoulders. “Tupac manages it”, he said.

“Why has God taken one of our finest actors from us? The Jews!!” Gibson added, in a moment of rare, frothy-mouthed passion, it has been alleged. Gibson was unfortunately unable to confirm or deny the rumoured outburst of rabidity as he was on a rally at the time, we assume.

Bruce Wallaby, producer of Home and Away in the 80s, recalls his memory of the late Heath: “I remember seeing this scrawny, blonde, mop-haired kid on the set one day. Thought it was some local kid trying to catch a glimpse of his idols. So I called security”. Only later on that evening, when Ledger had been released from jail, did Wallaby realise he’d seen actor legend-in-the-making, Heath Ledgend.  

“I’m deeply saddened. In Leith Hedger Britain has lost one of her finest daughters”, said Secretary for State, Jacqui Smith MP.

The PM was equally moved, saying: “Little Larry was only three years old. My deepest thoughts go out to his family at this time”.

The Fun newspaper urges all readers to fill in the coupon below with your name and address to support our “Legends Never Die” campaign where we petition the PM to put his money where his mouth is – not literally – and officially change Heath Ledger’s name by Deed Poll to “Heath Ledgend”. It’s what Heath would have wanted.

In other news, Heath Ledgend’s “Brothers Grimm” co-star Matt Damon was fined for speeding. He has accrued three Hollywood points.

© 2008, 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “A Classic Horror Story” (2021) #NetflixReview #150WordReview

Should be called A Classic Horror Story Medley

Strangers carpooling together across Italy get stranded in the woods and stalked by an evil presence and must fight tooth and nail to get out in one piece. As one of our characters remarks, “It’s like the set-up of a classic horror movie.”

A Classic Horror Movie, ironically, won’t go down as a classic horror movie. Indeed, it doesn’t even have the storyline of a classic horror movie. It does feel eerily familiar, however, with hints of Evil Dead, Saw, and Cabin in the Woods thrown in. The spooky house in the woods (another classic horror trope) was well-designed and very unsettling. What the movie sometimes lacks in acting it makes up for in atmos.

A suspenseful and gruesome flick with a wonderful post-credits sequence which is just perfect. However, it thinks it’s a bit cleverer than it actually is. Should be called A Classic Horror Story Medley.

3/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Haunt” (2019) #NetflixReview #Haunt

you are in for a treat

A group of friends out on Hallowe’en stumble upon an “extreme” haunted house which promises a real life nightmare. However, it soon becomes apparent that something is very wrong in this haunted house, this is one nightmare they won’t wake up from.

A kind of Halloween-cum-Saw-cum-Escape Room, this movie is in no way derivative or exploitative. It’s thrilling, disturbing and tense. I have to say, I haven’t enjoyed a horror this much for a while. From co-writer-director duo Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the minds behind the wonderful A Quiet Place, you are in for a treat.

This kind of movie usually ends with a stapled-on plot twist which “explains” the motivations of the baddies, even though this ending never follows on logically from the movie itself. Ya know the kind of ending: “It turns out the baddie done it because (s)he’s mad with grief after his son killed himself with drugs as a result of depression caused by failing a single physics class paper set by his teacher — the mother of the protagonist!” On one hand, it was a relief not to have to deal with this kind of movie-ruining ending; on the other hand, the total lack of rhyme and reason for how, why, when the baddie did all of this stops the movie being five stars. There just is no reason or sense to why the baddies do what they do, how they were able to set up their elaborate trap, where our baddies came from, and why nobody have rumbled them before.

Having said that, a wonderful movie!

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “The Lodge” (2019) #NetflixReview #TheLodge

Everything is believable, which is itself quite incredible … phenomenal writing, acting, set design, and direction

At a remote cabin in the woods, two mourning children and their soon-to-be step mum get snowed in together and cut off from the rest of the world. But as their frosty relationship starts to thaw, strange events begin to imperil our not-quite-family as their cabin reaches the boiling point of a fever dream.*

The Lodge features standard horror tropes. Cabin in the woods, weird stuff happens. A step-mum who is awkwardly replacing a mother who recently died in traumatic circumstances. A dad who inextricably takes off. But this film is far from standard.

This feature takes things in an interesting direction. The viewer starts to lose all sense of up and down. A kind-of twist near the end really up-ends us, and the ending itself, although open to interpretation, is surely bleak.

Child abuse and the trauma it leaves, the fragility of the human mind, the reality of growing up in a cult, and trying to start a new life. This movie deals with a lot of stuff. But it doesn’t feel overloaded. It’s a real slowburn, and it builds surely, steadily, and frightening to its climax. Everything is believable, which is itself quite incredible given the extreme actions of our three leads late on in the film. That I was completely sold is testament to the phenomenal writing, acting, set design, and direction.

Not an uplifting movie at all, but a wonderful one.

4/5

*Did you enjoy the pretentious extended metaphor?

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Terrified” a.k.a. “Aterrados” (2017)

Like much Argentine cinema … a great idea … but ultimately an unsatisfying mess

Strange events and a murdered wife brings a motley collection of investigators — a cop, a doctor, and a paranormalogist — to this Buenos Aires neighbourhood to investigate. Will they get to the bottom of the case and stop this evil from spreading?

Terrified a.k.a. Aterrados is a disturbing horror film. It never allows you to get your bearings. And asides from a dodgy bit of special effects early on, the film is darkly creepy with a disturbing evil presence.

Unfortunately, the film’s apparently deliberate decision to have no character-based central narrative thrust or fixed protagonist makes it hard to get into and stay with this movie. The effect is that a bunch of weird and disturbing stuff is happening, but without any reason focus or point. It’s frankly hard to care about what happens.

Like much Argentine cinema, there is a great idea here, and some wonderful acting, direction, and film design, but a film that none-the-less is ultimately an unsatisfying mess that goes nowhere. No matter how good these other things are, if the central narrative doesn’t work, it’s game over for the film. Sadly.

2/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Genres: “Howdunnit” #howdunnit #whodunnit

A howdunnit is like a “whodunnit“, but where we already know the culprit from the get-go — either because we see it happen at the beginning like in Columbo, or because it’s pretty obvious — but where the fun of the film is to see how, exactly, (s)he dunnit.

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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