Quick Hit: A scary anthology that all comes together in the end, in a confusing but satisfying manner.
There’s not many things that are better than a good collection of ghost stories. They find a good way into your brain and wiggle down deep, giving you a deep feel for the horror of what you’ve just heard/read/seen. I think a lot of the best stories are about people like me – those that feel like they’ve seen it all, done it all, and been scared to the deepest depths of our cores. There’s also the stories like this one that focus on those that try and debunk the supernatural. In this film, we follow Professor Goodman, a man who runs a television show that is designed to try and root out physic phenomenon that is faked. He takes a kind of manic glee in his work, even when it is obviously wrecking those that so vehemently believed.
Eventually, he is given an opportunity to investigate some cases that convinced his mentor, an older man who ran a television show that was similar, that ghosts are real. He dives deep into these worlds, finding convincing evidence that these people may be creating things on their own, within their own minds, but he also is shaken by what he finds. It’s here that the movie really starts to pick up steam, with each story tying slightly to the next. This is all framed by Goodman’s own story of belief and horror.
The best thing that I can say about this film is that while I was watching I felt a profound sense of dis-ease. It was full of different aspects that captured that – the lighting was terrific but never overly dark, the music was ominous and often times swallowed you whole – but it was the lack of the typical jump scares that I thought really took the film over the edge and into a territory that makes it fairly good. Martin Freeman is a standout in the third of the stories, as he manages to bring a bit of manic glee into the sense of a father who is haunted by his new child. It’s a great performance in a film that’s full of them.
I will preface this, Ghost Stories is going to be far too slow for many fans. It’s a slow burn of a film, one that isn’t afraid to tell the story that IT wants to tell. It’s refreshing for someone like me – I’ve really enjoyed the fact that films like these are coming back into vogue – but those that are used to faster paced horror may find themselves sitting in the dark waiting for something that never comes.
Overall, Ghost Stories is worth a watch for genre fans. I’m giving it a “B+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Filled with as much nostalgia for childhood as possible, this film somehow manages to stay as sweet as a pot of honey.
Are there any actors out there that so effortlessly portray boyish glee as Ewan McGregor? I’m a big fan of his, for many reasons, this being amongst the foremost. He somehow manages to interact with computer generated characters as effortlessly as when he told Anakin that he was the chosen one. Though the lines are there in McGregor’s face, he manages to still portray something that so many of us start to miss as we grow older – a childhood glee.
Isn’t that really what this movie is all about? Set in the trope of so many movies that feature an overworked, nearly absent parent (for more, see Mary Poppins, Hook, Elf, Liar Liar, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum), Christopher Robin follows a serious man who has lost the ability to have fun. His interactions with his daughter include reading textbooks and things as bedtime stories. He stays behind over the weekend to work on a big project (he works at a luggage company, of all things), as his family proceeds to the country home he left behind. Pooh awakens and finds his friends missing, and seeks out Christopher Robin to help him find them.
A lot of the humor in the film is derived from the fact that Pooh cannot understand the new hustle and bustle of Christopher Robin’s important new life. In a way, Pooh is a stand in for the child that Christopher isn’t allowing his daughter to be. He asks the questions that normally a child would ask an adult if given the time to. This hits home on a personal level – many of you know that I have a new job that is working me more hours than normal. It’s a tough lesson from a COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGE OF A STUFFED BEAR. Sometimes, the Lord speaks in mysterious ways I guess.
The voice acting is top notch. Jim Cummings, the voice of Pooh Bear all my life, and then some, continues to give a whimsical performance as the titular bear. Combine that with a beastial foghorn of Brad Garrett in Eyeore, and you have a real fun time when contrasted with the dark colors and waffling emotions that come from McGregor’s performance as Christopher.
Overall, the film is good, and will play on the heartstrings of many an overworked parent. Who doesn’t want to have their childhood want them as much as they want their childhood? I’m going to give this film a “B-“. Thanks, as always, for reading.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Technically breathtaking, with an emotional story to match.
My father started collecting space memorabilia when I was roughly around 9 or 10 years old. Soon our dining room was filled with Life magazines commemorating the Space Race, and a bookshelf full of glasses, plates, and other collectibles filled one of the corners of our room. The moon landing, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this month, is something that captivated a whole generation, and also captivated a young boy through his father’s passion for the history of it. Space is still one of the great unknowns for humankind – we think that we know so much, but there is very little that we are sure of. Naturally, my father’s passion for space and my passion for movies overlapped when it came to Damien Chazelle’s First Man, a haunting portrait of Neil Armstrong as he prepares for his trip to become one of the most famous Americans in history.
Chazelle, who made two very different films that garnered Academy attention in Whiplash and La La Land, again stepped back onto the Academy’s radar with this story. First Man tells a very small story in a very large setting, in a similar tone to his two previous films. In the same way that Whiplash showed that musical greatness can come from the darkest of pushes, and La La Land turned a classic love story into a romance to acting, jazz, and the rush of falling in love, here Chazelle tells the story behind the story (excuse the cliché term, but it fits terrifically) of Armstrong as he dealt with the death of his daughter. This left him, a famously stoic man already, as a bit closed off emotionally, and fantastically driven to succeed. Ryan Gosling continues his stretch of terrific performances with Armstrong.
Really though, the performer who most holds the story together is Claire Foy. She manages to present a woman who is both fragile and terrifically strong. Janet Armstrong had to hold onto the fact that her husband was most likely going to die in space, after she had lost a child. Whereas Neil had something to throw himself into, Janet, as a 1960s woman, was not allowed the same courtesy. But she was strong and presented herself with grace and acumen, as shown here. One of her best lines is when she confronts the leaders of NASA because they have removed the feed of her husband in space. She states that they’re all just “boys making models of balsa wood”, which honestly feels spot on.
That leads me to my next point. Often times in the movies, space travel is presented as glorious, as fun, as awe-inspiring. And while it is most of those things, early space travel (and even now) was incredibly dangerous. The ships that we were building to push hundreds of pounds of rocket fuel into were not built to the same safety standards that you would expect, and were glorified tin cans that held people and a giant bomb to hurtle them. Chazelle, with devastating precision, shows us that, and, even better, lets us hear it. The shots of Armstrong and Aldrin in the lunar module and the Apollo are some of the most claustrophobic I’ve seen outside of something like The Descent. Space travel wasn’t a blast (pun unintended) – you were too afraid of all the things that could go wrong.
Overall, First Man is an amazing film that continues to highlight Damien Chazelle’s talents. I can only hope we continue to see more, and that he dives more into some of the stories that make us want to tap our shoes, dance around, and fly to the stars. I’m giving this one an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"