"Insidious" is the Best Scary Movie of 2011!

7/19/2011
**Contains Spoilers**

Insidious is the new horror movie from James Wan and Leigh Whannell who brought us the original “Saw” movie and the 2007 movie “Dead Silence” which was also reviewed on this blog. Insidious is the best scary movie of 2011 so far. It is not gory and bloody like “Saw” but returns to the basics how to really scare you in a deep and authentic way, with out resorting to cheap violence.

Insidious is a story that that crosses two popular horror sub genres; the haunted house and demonic possession. With this film director James Wan has created some of the creepiest and nightmare inducing images to be seen in a long time. Along with the musical score by Joseph Bishara (who also acts as the main villain) they have created a truly frightening film.

The Lambert family has just moved into you typical dark and foreboding new house. The doors creak, the attic is cold and dark, and things just don’t feel right as the family of five starts settling in. When Dalton, the younger of the two boys, has a mishap while exploring the attic he seems fine but doesn’t wake up the next morning. After a trip to the emergency room, he checks out to be perfectly healthy but in a sort of coma. Over the next few days the mother, played by Rose Byrne, is freaked out by the strange things going on inside the house (think “Poltergeist”). When she is attacked by a ghost, she begs her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson) to move. They do, to smaller and happier looking place. But the ghosts and spirits seem to have followed them. They have a paranormal team investigate and find out that “The house is not haunted, it’s your son”. This plot twist and how the rest of the movie unfolds has alienated some viewers, but if you’ve come this far, you might as well strap in and enjoy the ride.

Dalton is stuck in and other worldly dimension called the “further”, a sort of purgatory for demons and lost souls. Lin Shaye plays Elise a paranormal medium who seeks to bring back Dalton to his earthly body before it is taken over. The premise is no doubt out there, but the filmmakers know this and really go for it. There are not cheap scares in this movie, no cats jumping out of the dark, no flocks of birds hiding in the shadows. They’ve created a roster of truly frightening baddies in the Old Woman, the Lipstick-Face demon, and the Doll Face girls. What’s more amazing is that this film was made for only one and a half million dollars and grossed over 58 million in theaters.

The movie was also produced by the “Paranormal Activity” people, but “Insidious” actually delivers on the scares. Insidious is now available on DVD, Blu Ray, On Demand, Red Box, and probably more. So see it today!

Get to know "Vera Drake"

7/12/2011

Why don’t you “Put the kettle on” on and read this review of director Mike Leigh’s 2004 drama that is very engaging and very British. He won numerous awards along with actress Imelda Staunton, while also being nominated for dozens more.

Taking place in early 1950s London, Staunton gives a jolly good performance in a career defining role as Vera Drake, a woman who “helps” out other women who can’t manage. This helping involves performing illegal abortions. Before you start judging her, we see her as the absolute model of perfection. She cleans houses, cares for her elderly mother as well as her own family. She has a husband and two grown children (Ethel and Sid) who all live in a cramped flat with barley enough room to turn around. Vera is so kind, loving and generous you are reminded of Mary Poppins. Repressed childhood trauma and a need to help people led her down this path.

She has done this for many years and has never taken any money for doing it. Her long time friend Susan brings her the address of a woman in need and Vera arrives with her bag of tools. “First thing we do is put the kettle on”. We see Vera visit a number of women all of whom deal differently with their situation. Some are doing it for the first time, while some are disturbingly use to it. Vera rationalizes her actions by feeling she is doing good and helping women at the most dire hour.

When a young girl becomes ill and needs to be hospitalized, Vera’s life and spotless reputation is about to be aborted as well. During her daughter’s engagement dinner the police coming knocking, and Vera has a huge “oh shit” moment. The film then takes a strong emotional turn as her family has to deal with this secret life of hers. At the police station she admits to everything and signs a full confession. For the rest of the film Vera is in a state of shock and disbelief. Her bail is posted but her family life will never be the same. Her son Sid is disgusted by what she has done and refuses to be in the same room with her, while her daughter is sheepish but supportive. Her husband is torn and bewildered but remains supportive as well. This brings us to a very awkward Christmas celebration in contrast to the very joyful and lively engagement party from earlier (before the police crashed it). Vera eventually goes on trial and is sentenced.

Although she does perform these abortions Vera is not a monster, she is not a leftist radical. She is a sympathetic mother of mercy to countless women. Because of the subject matter this film will no doubt divide people but the character of Vera Drake is one to remember.

In recent years Imelda Staunton can be seen playing Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies.

"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" Must be seen Today

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
7/6/2011

A winner of numerous international awards, including the Palme d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, this film is quite the jarring an emotional experience. Set in 1987 Romania the title 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days refers to how far along the character of Gabriela is before she gets an illegal abortion. Aided by her best friend and college roommate Otillia, they risk their lives to end the one growing inside her.

What is uniquely different about this film is that the story is told from the friend’s point of view and not the woman who is getting the illicit procedure. Gabriela, or Gabita as she is referred to, is a meek and quite girl from a decent family who decides to get a back alley abortion from a man who goes by the name of Mr. Bebe. He has done this many times and requires that a number of rules must be met in order to avoid arrest.

One by one of all the rules and requirements and broken by the women. They couldn’t get a room at the right hotel, Gabita lies about how far along she is and they don’t have all the money that is required. Mr. Bebe is a dark and mysterious fellow. While quiet, cold and very regimented it feels at any moment he could burst into a fit of violence. After all of his rules are broken he scolds the girls and gets up to leave when Otillia offers herself to him. Now that is a friend!

The procedure is done and the camera does not shy away, although not exploitive or gratuitous, you are like a fly on the wall experiencing this life altering event. During the early hours of her recovery, Otillia has to go to her boyfriend’s mother’s birthday celebration. This is quite the juxtaposition of scenes of two birthdays. During a big dinner scene the camera focuses on a despondent and withdrawn Otillia as she ponders what could be going on back at the hotel. She finally ditches the party when Gabita doesn’t answer the phone and races back to the hotel. Gabita is in a sort of catatonic state lying on the bed. Otillia finds the fetus on the bathroom floor and wraps it up in a towel and puts it in her bag. Mr. Bebe did give them instruction on how to dispose of it in his usual cold and heartless manner. Otillia follows through.

Friendship and loyalty are the cornerstones of this story while the abortion and politics of the Iron Curtain era in Romania are used to dramatize it. Obviously this movie isn’t for everyone, but it is a beautifully portrayed character study of a story about issues that are universal. I’d also recommend watching the 2004 film Vera Drake by Mike Leigh.