This week I have chosen some movies from the past which made me think. If you are looking for something that will get your mind working then try one of these from the recent past. Whether you use Netflix, Amazon Video of any other source there is far more out there than what comes up on the first page of your search and there is something special to be found in each of these very different stories.
The Poker House (2008)
It is their house but can they live in it?
This is a masterful bit of entertainment starring Jennifer Lawrence, Chloë Grace Moretz, Selma Blair, Danielle Campbell, Sophia Bairley, Bokeem Woodbine, David Alan Grier, Andrew Rothenberg, Clarke Peters and Debbi Burns, that will touch you all over the place. Based on the life of Lori Petty who also directed and co-wrote the movie. You know her as Tank Girl, or the love interest in the first Point Break movie or even some eighties TV.
Together we watch these two young girls played by Jennifer Lawrence and Chloë Grace Moretz as they maneuver through days of trying to stay safe, and nights just trying to keep themselves away from the people who also occupy the home they try to call theirs. Each night the house they live in becomes The Poker House where men come to play games, and use the women who live upstairs. Selma Blair is the mother who wants more for her girls but is trapped working as a prostitute for and trying her best to keep her daughters out of the hands of the men who control her life. We get to see the great characters who are around the fringes trying to help these girls where ever they can or possibly take what little they have from them.
One of the best scenes is most likely the one you have seen in which a very young Chloë Grace Moretz is sitting at a bar eating the peanuts and talking to David Alan Grier the old drunk who is completely uncomfortable having this little girl invade his safe place. Jennifer Lawrence in one of her first movie roles is the absolute star of this piece though, and you can truly see the talent that has gotten her to where she is now just laid out bare for all to see in this movie. There is great tension, and real moments of fear that you will be pulled into, and there is a rich deep story that will touch you and might open your eyes to how other people have lived or at the very least you might relate. R rated and fully deserving of that rating there are strong scenes of suggested sexual content as well as plenty of outright active content. Not a really violent movie though there are some scenes which get tense, and the tension does ramp up. If you want a drama told with a lot of true feeling and acted incredibly well, The Poker House is a fantastic choice.
Most of the time I was like huh, well ok I guess then at the end I was like “Huh, but why?” and I still think I liked it. This is a movie all about misdirection, and from the beginning you are made to look in all the wrong places. Starring Natalie Alyn Lind, Emily Alyn Lind, Audrey Marie Anderson, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Todd Stashwick, Alexandra Lydon, Spencer List, Lee Garlington, Benjamin Stockham, Barak Hardley, Colby French, Isabella Murad and Danny Vasquez.
The basic premise is that we have this nice couple who have two children, and in one night we follow these two people through their personal nightmare to save their kids. We watch as a man sets traps for them, and uses the fear that their kids are in danger to heighten the level of confusion, and keep these people off balance.
I really enjoyed this movie because of its twisted nature and the way it has of being something else. The question of the kids at the start of the movie that you will have at the end of the movie is something we all had. This is a twisted little tale that is lying to you at every turn. I think that is the best part. You will be left questioning quite a few things if you pay attention, and you might even think you understand what happened. If that happens you have to let me know ok? R rated for violence, and very violent themes. Not a family movie even if there is a room filled with balloons.
I was impressed with the first 5 minutes or so, and that kept me around through this entire movie, however though it was a decent ghost story, there are a lot of really boring moments in it. I felt overall that the first half of the movie could have been titled “The blind leading the ignorant” and that would have been enough to just move past the whole getting to know the children stage. Starring Daisy Keeping, Joy Tanner, David Brandon, Martin Kashirokov and Lisa Ruth Andreozzi.
The main theme hidden under the ghost story, and the mystery itself is that you must pay attention to the foreshadowing, and they try very hard to get you to notice this sutlely.
Jenny’s Dad is evil, sorry I had to just blurt it out like that but without that he just looks like a looming specter himself, and you need a bit more Dad meat in the first half of the story to establish him or he just comes across as flat as he does. Joy Tanner is as good as she usually is except, what accent is she supposed to have and where does it keep going? Beyond the accent she is as evil from the first scene she appears in as you think she will be, and that takes something right?
Overall I enjoyed this, I would say it is aimed at a younger demographic surely, the romantic poetry spouting twenty somethings, and younger yet, but you young at heart, lonely hearts might like it as well. It is not a scary sort of ghost story it is simply a story of revenge that has been a long time coming as these stories usually are. PG for some violence and graphic scenes which suggest violence.
The Returned (2013)
A smart movie, that loses itself trying to keep up the act.
This is a movie that should have a larger web presence, and is barely detectable. With a cast as varied as Emily Hampshire, Kris Holden-Ried, Shawn Doyle, Claudia Bassols, Melina Matthews, and Barry Flatman. The Returned is one of those movies that wants to be the smart person’s zombie flick, it just becomes far too predictable. So as the last act comes everything that was working so well is thrown out, and the movie just degrades into the ironic revenge ending that you could see coming from across the room. This is a well acted, and very well thought out movie with a lot of great ideas. Imagine an alternate Earth on which just before the AIDS epidemic hits there is a zombie outbreak in which millions die, then ten years later they have worked out a vaccine, and that is where we come into the present day story in that Earth.
Lots of great story to work with I fully recommend this movie even with the holes left in the plot at the end, and how quickly they try to just wrap everything up. The part of this movie that is beyond broken is the voice over or re-dubbing, most of the time the sound is like an old movie from Montreal in the seventies or eighties (the large man in the fundraising scene was most likely in some of those) With a 14A rating for mature content and a lot of graphic death scenes, also there is some brief or not so brief nudity.
Not Safe For Work (2014)
This is a decent little espionage/thriller not so much Die Hard but smart, and most of the technical stuff is done right. You have a story about Tom who is having himself just the worst day at work, and you get a fair bit of backstory filler with an understanding of the office itself, and the fact that Tom is very familiar with the layout, and how to get around quickly. Starring JJ Feild, Max Minghella, Eloise Mumford, Michael Gladis, Christian Clemenson, Molly Hagan, Tom Gallop, Marina Black, Brandon Keener, Alejandro Patino, Tim Griffin, Eme Ikwuakor, Shashawnee Hall, Christian Ijin Link.
The meat of the story like most of these evil corporation stories has flaws all throughout, and there are things that Tom should pick up on and he just does not, and there are some things that I was hoping to actually see that they did mostly right. HID obviously paid a good deal into this movie, and other than Tom’s card not getting any reaction from the readers later in the movie (that can not happen unless the card is broken, the reader will always see something otherwise) the setup was perfect, and it almost makes me think this is a sales video made just for them.
I did enjoy the main story, and was able to forgive a few phony things that they tried to make work that did not and although the running around was close to being convincing there were a couple of times that they have to run down the wrong hallway and end up back at the bullpen. In the end I do recommend this as a rainy day afternoon filler film that will entertain you, and might give you a few heart racing moments. Not the worst movie, mostly just middle of the road stuff though and I do overthink these things. Some violent scenes in which people are shot but overall this is almost as tame as any of today’s TV shows. Not for the little kids, but most people should be fine with the content of this movie.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2009)
The most scared you might ever feel for someone else.
Finally if you love real truthful films then you need to see this one. There has never been a more realistic found footage film ever. However if you are easily frightened, and have a delicate sensibility, then: Do not ever watch this movie! It is too well produced, and too real. Like many other found footage movies this one kicks off with a police raid that leads to the finding of a cache of old tapes. There are eight hundred plus tapes found. For part of the story we as the viewer are taken through the torturous tour of one very unlucky victim from her abduction onward as she is locked in the back of a semitrailer container chained to the wall. Things get pretty bad and we are there. All the while the law enforcement teams are combing through the mass of tapes hoping to catch the killer that they are learning is more deranged than they had ever imagined. The movie stars Bobbi Sue Luther, Samantha Robson and Ivar Brogger. I have not seen it for a couple of years, but it still makes me think hard about people to this day.
Strong warning: this movie will affect you, and you can not unsee it. I am not joking though you most likely can not handle this movie. You will be sorry, or you would not. But you will be changed. If you like movies like V.H.S. or the even deeper V.H.S. II the sequel then you should not miss out on The Poughkeepsie Tapes. This is a Mature title for a mature audience and is really not for the faint of heart.
If you know of a more realistic found footage film then let me know in the comments. I am betting this is the best or worst of them all so far, and I have seen most of them.
I wanted to give you a real varied selection this week so I hope I have mixed things up on you enough. If you want me to talk about a movie that you think is something special please feel free to let me know in the comments below.