The Michelle Williams Tribute "Wendy and Lucy"

Film #1
"Wendy and Lucy"

Michelle Williams is an extremely talented actress who flies under the radar of most moviegoers.  While keeping a quiet public profile she does all of her talking on the big screen.  Although she was nominated this year for Best Actress in her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, Williams gravitates towards small independent films rather than Hollywood blockbusters.  My next three reviews will feature Ms. Williams in a few of her best roles.  First up is the 2008 film "Wendy and Lucy" directed by Kelly Reichardt.

Made on a shoestring budget in Oregon this film is an understated character study of a young woman and her dog as they head for a better life.  Their goal is Alaska and a lucrative job at a fish cannery.  The film is minimalist but high on emotional impact and feeling.  Wendy and her companion, a yellow lab mix named Lucy, currently live in their old Honda Accord.  After sleeping the night in a Walgreen's parking lot, a kind old security guard must have her move.  The car doesn't start and so begins a turning point not only in her trip but her life.  She tracks every cent she has in a journal and its getting pretty low.  A bad decision at a supermarket and a heartless ass kissing stock boy get Wendy in trouble with the law.  Lucy is left tied to a bike rack outside the market while Wendy is booked for petty theft.  A number of hours pass until Wendy is freed and fined $50.  She races back to Lucy but she is gone.  She finds little help with the indifferent locals and her dilemma only intensified.  The one bright spot is the security guard played by Wally Dalton, offering his cell phone and a kind ear. 

She makes her way to the pound but Lucy isn't there, just a bunch of other lost or abandoned dogs.  She has to pay to have her car towed to the repair shop which is only a block away.  The mechanic delivers some bad news, the car is dead.  Without her car, her sanctuary, she tries spending the night in the woods.  It's not long until she is freaked out and nearly attacked by another vagrant.  At the end of her rope, she calls her estranged sister and gets a big load of nothing.  I don't want to throw too many spoilers out there but after some painful choices, life must move on.

Wendy's struggle unfolds like a sort of documentary rather than a film.  There is no musical score and the filmmakers are committed to realism.  Michelle Williams IS Wendy as she completely commits to this role.  Many people agreed as she was nominated for a handful of awards.  The movie itself won the AFI Film of the Year Award.  "Wendy and Lucy" is available on Netflix watch instantly.

Up next: Meek's Cutoff.

Schedule a Date with "The Woman"


"The Woman" is a sequel to the 2009 movie "Offspring" both of which are based on novels by Jack Ketchum.  Both films are extremely brutal and push the limits of horror.  "The Woman" is played by the talented and extremely dedicated Pollyanna McIntosh who was the leader of a pack of feral human cannibals that roamed the forests of the Northeastern Coast in "Offspring".  She was the only one of her people to survive and a new chapter or her life is about to be written with "The Woman".

We meet the Cleek family who lives on a big country farm in a small east coast town.  Chris is a lawyer with a small practice, his wife Bella is played by genre favorite Angela Bettis.  Chris rules his family with a strong sense of discipline, while Bella is very meek and unable to fully confront her domineering husband.  While out hunting Chris observes a curious sight.  A dirty feral woman bathing in a river, he is transfixed and hatches a plan. 

Peggy and Brian are their teenage kids who also have another five-year-old sister who is just referred to as "Darlin'". Peggy is very quiet and withdrawn from her other classmates as something seems to be deeply troubling her.  Brian seems to idolized his douche bag of a father and does what ever is told of him probably as a sort of coping mechanism.  There is always this uneasy sense and anxiety that exist within their house.  Something is going on here but what?  Director Lucky McKee and his crew make great use of sound to really drive home the emotion and intensity of each scene.

Chris takes it upon himself to clean and civilize this Woman no matter the cost.  He captures her and strings her up in the family cellar.  She is a primal vicious beast of a woman, but she is being held captive, so yeah I'd be a little pissed off too.  When Chris's hand gets a little to close she bites off a finger and swallows it only to spit out his wedding band.  Chris brings in the whole family into his obsessive and demeaning little project.  He tortures and humiliates the Woman all under the guise of domesticating her.  It feels like Chris has gotten tired of holding his own family prisoners over the years and now wants a new challenge.  Everybody except Brian are utterly repulsed and against his actions, but feel powerless to do anything about it.  It is quite disturbing to see Brian's transformation into a younger and possibly more destructive version of his dad.   When a certain event's finally hit their boiling points and secrets are revealed Peggy literally releases the beast and the Woman has her bloody vengeance.   

The story line bares a resemblance to a previous Jack Ketchum novel turned movie called "The Girl Next Door"  which I have also reviewed.  "The Woman" has been called by some as misogynistic and pure trash as all the women are subjected to extreme psychological and physical torture by the men.  A lot of what has been said seems to reflect the views of the original 1978 film "I Spit on Your Grave" which was really more of a feminist approach.  She takes control of herself and the situation without the help of a man.  Overall "The Woman" will only appeal to a hardcore group of horror fans who seek it out.  Its available on DVD as part of the Bloody Disgusting Selects Series.

After Dark Horror Fest 4 "The Final"


This movie was part of the After Dark Horror Fest series.  Each year they would release "8 films to die for".  Now they just go by the title After Dark Originals. All of the movies are straight to DVD and are usually either really bad or somewhat bearable.  "The Final" caught my eye because it dealt with bullying in high school.  I was never personally bullied but it is just so mean and senseless.  Although it seems to be ingrained in us as people to beat down those who are different.  Last year I reviewed a bunch of movies involving this theme and thought this would be a good fit.

"The Final" is a pretty standard story about a revenge fantasy come to life for a bunch of high school outcasts.  The rich kids and the jocks bully the immigrants and the weak.  The cheerleaders and pretty girls berate the other girls.  The way they introduce the bullies is actually kind of funny since it is so over the top and stereotypical.  I have a feeling the filmmakers knew this and are playing it for laughs.  Also making them so unlikable that we really want these kids to suffer in the end.  The outcasts really seem to be just regular kids but they put together an elaborate plan to teach the bullies what it is like to be them. They plan a costume party and invite all the kids they want revenge against and surprise they all show up.  The punch they serve is spiked with something to make them all pass out and when they wake up they are all chained together to face their wrath.

The filmmakers are obviously horror fans themselves and have inserted several homages to past movies like Audition, Saw, Heathers, Deliverance and more.  The group of outcasts is lead by Dane and angry and bitter teen who has been pushed to the edge.  The lone girl is actually kind of hot and would have a great future as a dominatrix.  The jocks and popular kids are physically and psychologically tortured by Dane and his followers for most of the movie.  They will not kill them but will maim and disfigure to let people know that they are just as ugly on the outside as they are on the inside.

The movie does tend to fall into many of the teen horror traps and clich├ęs.  All of the students are at least 25 years old and hardly look like high schoolers.  Also, their extremely elaborate plan was completed with very little planning, and money didn't seem to be an object.  The small town cops are always completely inept and clueless.  The lone black kid who is every bodies friend doesn't die (I know shocking).  This is a good movie to watch with friends at midnight since it'll be a whole lot better if you've had a few and just looking for a good time. 

The Heartbreaking Journey of "Never Let Me Go"

*This Review may contain spoilers, and is gluten free*

Starring three of the best young British actors working today "Never Let Me Go" is a story of doomed love and ponders deep questions about science and life itself. It is based on the best selling book by Kazuo Ishiguro, who also wrote "Remains of the Day" which was turned into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins.

Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley are three seemingly average kids who grow up together in a boarding school called Hailsham. They are never able to leave the premises and live under the strict rules of Miss Emily and her staff. Something always seems just a bit off and strange about the kids of Hailsham. They wear bracelets that they have to scan in whenever they go back to their dorm rooms. Their bodies are carefully maintained and routinely checked for defects or contaminates. The arts are extremely important and every student needs to submit their work for a chance to be included in Miss Emily's Gallery. When Miss Lucy, a young compassionate teacher, tells her class who they really are and what their life's purpose is she is immediately fired. The students of Hailsham are clones raised only so they can donate their organs. They only live to their early twenties until they are required to start their donations until they "complete".

We follow Kathy (Mulligan), Tommy and Ruth (Knightly) as they grow up and a love triangle develops. Ruth is jealous of Kathy and steals Tommy away from her. As teenagers, they are moved to a compound called "The Cottages" a sort of self-contained town. Although they do have the opportunity to venture out on occasion they still have to were their bracelets and are heavily accounted for. Feeling lonesome and unwanted Kathy applies to be a "carer", someone who takes care of another clone as they make their donations. She is also able to put off her own donations for a little while. After almost 10 years apart from the group finally gets back together and not a moment too soon. Ruth and Tommy have already made two donations and are looking pretty rough. Ruth apologizes for what she has done to her over the years. Kathy and Tommy start bonding and their love is rekindled. There is a rumor that if two people could prove their love was true that they could defer their donations for a couple of years. It turns out to be nothing but a rumor.

"Never Let Me Go" conjures up many of the deepest questions out there about fate, the existence of the soul, the ethics of cloning and the human spirit. This is all dealt with rather lightly and mainly focuses on the love triangle, and the eventual race for Kathy and Tommy to hold on to their love and lives. If this story was put in the hands of a director like Terrence Malick, we would probably have an instant classic. Although director Mark Romanek, who usually directs music videos, does do a decent job here. The acting is superb as well as the supporting cast. Charlotte Rampling as Miss Emily is perfect. Near the end, we learn from her that the purpose of their art was to show Miss Emily that they had a soul. This movie is available on DVD and Blu-ray, but I would also recommend reading the book.