Some stories are so preposterous and delightfully astonishing that they have to be exposed to the masses. Such is the true tale of Joyce McKinney, the former beauty queen who hired a pilot to fly her and an accomplice, Keith May, to England to rescue her boyfriend, Kirk Anderson, from the clutches of the Mormon church. After bringing him to a rented cottage in Devon, where the refrigerator was stocked full of his favorite foods, she bound and seduced him. What ensued was three days of sex, food, and fun, to be forever known as “The Case of the Manacled Mormon”.
It sounds like every man’s fantasy – a beautiful pageant princess waiting on you hand and foot, satisfying your every whim and fancy. However, Kirk, after reading about his own abduction in the newspaper, fled from his captors and alleged to the police a much different account of what happened. The all-American, charismatic blonde was arrested for kidnapping and raping the Mormon missionary and thrown in the slammer to await trial. The British tabloids had a field day with the bizarre incident.
The Daily Express printed Joyce’s side of the story while their rival, The Daily Mirror, delved deep into Joyce’s past and uncovered lurid details of her moonlighting as an S&M model and dominatrix for hire, painting her as a manipulative Jezebel that cast a spell over all of the men she met. The accusation did ring true. She often referred to Keith May as her slave and she had another admirer willing to do anything she asked. Even Peter Tory, a reporter for The Daily Express, seems to have fallen for Joyce’s delusion that she was simply a girl so profoundly in love with her boyfriend, she risked life and limb in order to save and deprogram him from a cult of polygamists.
Unfortunately, Kirk Anderson declined to participate in Morris’s documentary and Keith May passed away in 2004, but there is enough material to fill his absence, like Joyce’s decision to travel to Seoul, South Korea to have her beloved rescue pitbull, Booger, cloned.
The interviews with Joyce, Jackson Shaw (the pilot), Troy Williams (a former Mormon missionary), Peter Tory, Kent Gavin (photographer for The Daily Mirror), and Dr. Hong flow smoothly, with barely any interruption by Mr. Morris. The montage of animated newspaper clippings was a visual treat and the background music fit brilliantly, which normally goes unnoticed in a documentary. The star of the show is Joyce with her animated voice and emphasized gestures. She’s a breed of crazy that is sometimes unsettling, sometimes funny, and always entertaining.
Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home to the midwest after a business trip to Hong Kong, only to die soon after from unknown causes. Immediately following her death, her young son dies. Several more people who had contact with Beth meet their untimely demise and thus spurs an investigation by the CDC. We peer into the lives of her husband, Mitch, who turns out to be immune, Leonora (Marion Cotillard) of the World Health Organization, Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an EIS operative sent out into the field, and Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the CDC, among others.
The film moves fluidly, with brief shots of objects we touch every day to remind us how susceptible we are – a door handle, an elevator button, a pen at the office, a bowl of peanuts at the airport. While it’s captivating throughout, I couldn’t help but feel like I was stuck in biology class now and then, particularly scenes that delved extensively into the genetic analysis of the virus. But I am content to have learned a few things about r nought (the reproduction number of a virus/infection), fomites, and how crap-my-pants scary Gwyneth Paltrow’s hospital scene really is on a gigantic cinema screen.
This isn’t much of a thriller. It’s more of a slick, stylized, fictionalized docu-drama that is very bleak and pensive with a CSI element to it. It’s a sobering look into what could realistically happen during and after a pandemic outbreak. It’s pro-science/pro-medicine. Unlike many movies of today, the heroes don’t have bulging muscles, superpowers, or cool gadgets. In Contagion, the saviors wear lab coats and their weapon is a vaccine.
An insecure teen girl, Annie (Liana Liberato), starts a relationship with Charlie, a boy whom she’s never met but after a couple of months of online and phone correspondence, she agrees to see him in person. She’s been convinced by Charlie that he is a 20-something college student. When she finally sees him face-to-face, he is far from the young, twinkly-eyed boy in the photos Charlie has sent to her – he’s a 35 year old man. Still, she goes to a motel with him and ends up being sexually assaulted.
Directed by David Schwimmer and starring two brilliant actors as Annie’s parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener), Trust didn’t receive a nationwide release, probably due to its heavy subject matter and a very un-Hollywood like ending, one that doesn’t deliver that warm and fuzzy feeling. Most people have no idea the movie even exists. If you’re a parent of a teen/tween, do yourself a favor and watch it.
Although the performances were spot-on, it did creep into that weepy Lifetime/Hallmark Hall of Fame territory every so often. I admit, it worked like a charm. I cried like a baby. Sometimes, the film lost its focus, bouncing back and forth between the criminal investigation and the father’s increasingly neurotic behavior and lust for vigilante justice. There were some scenes that stood out, reminding me of the misconceptions so many people hold about rape.
Despite what the trailer at the official site may lead you to believe, the film’s message is not that the internet is evil. David Schwimmer is a long-time anti-violence advocate for women (he’s also on the board of the Rape Foundation) but he’s careful not to get too preachy or overbearing. Don’t view Trust as a lesson to be learned. In this technologically advanced age, we’re well aware of the dangers, of the predators, of the steps we have to take to protect ourselves and our children. Instead, consider it an opportunity to explore the reactions of the characters on screen and reflect on your own emotions, both positive and negative.
Gold-digger Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is forced back into the teaching position she despises after being dumped by her rich boyfriend. Instead of instructing the students and nurturing their young minds, she shows them movies like Lean On Me and Dangerous Minds while sneaking in sips of booze and cat napping at her desk. She hones in on Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), a handsome substitute teacher who belongs to a family of considerable wealth but, to her dismay, he falls for the star teacher, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch). Intent on snagging herself another sugar daddy, she starts saving money for breast implants but her efforts to afford the $10,000 price tag aren’t enough.
After she learns the teacher whose class receives the highest state test scores is awarded a $5,700 bonus check, she starts making her students apply themselves but her aggressive teaching style yields nothing but bellyaching and malcontent. Determined to win the money, she poses as an investigative journalist following up on claims that the state exams discriminate against blacks and minorities, allowing her an the opportunity to steal the test questions from Carl Halabi (Thomas Lennon). The hostile rivalry between Elizabeth and Amy turns into full-scale war after Elizabeth’s students scores are, not only the highest in the entire county but, enough to unseat Amy’s three year victory.
There are plenty of rotten pranks and downright nasty schemes that go on throughout the film, along with drinking and drugs, lots of swearing, an awkward dry-humping scene, and a pair of surgically enhanced breasts that will have men’s eyes popping right out of their sockets. The humor is hit-and-miss but when it succeeds, it’s shamefully funny. It’s no comedic gem but it does satisfy a guilty pleasure to see Diaz play a greedy, thoughtless, conniving bitch. In Hollywood years, she’s ‘old’ but, damn, she is looking better than ever and I give her props for flaunting what she’s got in Bad Teacher.
I loved Lucy Punch as Amy Squirrel. Who is this woman who nailed the role of a well-intentioned but batshit crazy teacher so perfectly? She captured all of Amy’s neurotic tendencies, exasperating competitiveness, nervous tics, and the smarmy smile that I kept hoping Elizabeth would knock right off of her face. Thumbs up to Jason Segel as Russell, the school gym teacher pining for Elizabeth, John Michael Higgins as the overwhelmed Principal Snur, and Phyllis Smith as reserved, mousy Lynn. The only person I didn’t get was Justin Timberlake’s character – he was just plain weird and dull.
This was a mediocre comedy saved by its cast. There is a lot that doesn’t make sense and you basically have to toss your morals to the wayside. Don’t get too analytical. This movie is not an attack on the fine men and women who sacrifice salary for their passion to teach. It’s a short-sighted, bawdy summertime flick that wants to tickle your funny bone, even if it doesn’t always succeed.
Three children (Aggeliki Papoulia, Christos Passilas, and Mary Tsoni) live a sheltered existence with their parents (Christos Stergioglou and Michele Valley) who control them to the extreme in order to protect them from the rest of society. They invent an older brother who, they tell the children, ventured outside the confines of the estate and was killed by a vicious, flesh eating cat. The parents improvise new definitions for words like sea (an armchair) and zombie (little yellow flower) to further isolate them from anything beyond their bizarre, manipulated microcosm.
The children’s only link to the outside world is Christina (Anna Kalaintzidou), a security guard at the father’s workplace, who is paid to relieve the son of his sexual urges. One day, Christina offers a present to the oldest daughter but she is obligated to give her something in return – oral sex. The family structure starts to unravel once Christina is gone and the oldest daughter is forced to replace her role as the son’s personal prostitute. Whatever cruel punishment her father exacts, the oldest daughter isn’t deterred from rebelling and, eventually, going to great lengths to gain her freedom.
Dogtooth, original Greek title of Kynodontas, is shocking and depraved. This is not for most people and most definitely not for anyone under the age of 18. With multiple sex scenes (a few including incest and a very graphic fellatio clip from a pornographic video tape), an act of animal cruelty, violence and bloodshed, child abuse, and full frontal male and female nudity, this is not for the casual viewer. It seems the only debauchery left out of the film is bestiality (thank goodness).
The dialog is painful to endure at times but the acting is kind of hypnotic. In fact, it’s hard to stop watching entirely because of how inappropriate and insane the movie is. It plays out in a silly fashion with the lies the parents tell the children elevating to absurdity for their own selfish desires (e.g., Frank Sinatra is their grandfather so they have a reason to listen to his records).
For me, the highlight of Dogtooth is when the two daughters dance for the parents, who are celebrating their anniversary, while the son strums an expressive tune on the guitar. An innocent, reverent dance with her younger sister turns into a frenzied solo interpretation of Flashdance that becomes so intense, she’s ordered by her mother to stop. Imagine contestants on shows like America’s Got Talent or So You Think You Can Dance who are aired only because their dancing is so horrendous, so hilarious, so over-the-top, but so full of spirit that it must be witnessed.
Mary and Max is a multi-award winning animation that chronicles the relationship between Mary Daisy Dinkle (Toni Collette), a young, insecure girl in Australia who is the only daughter of an alcoholic mother and a neglectful father, and Max Jerry Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an overweight, panic-ridden man in New York. One day, Mary picks the first name she finds in a phone book and sends a letter, along with a chocolate bar, prompting a decades long correspondence of letters and chocolate treats. Although Max has longed for a real friend (his imaginary friend sits on a stool reading all day), Mary’s sensitive questions propel him into anxiety attacks, one so severe he ends up in a mental institution.
Many years pass with no mail from Max. In between waiting for word from him, Mary becomes smitten with the next door neighbor boy, Damien (Eric Bana), and continues helping her agoraphobic neighbor, Len. Considering advice from his therapist, he finally writes to Mary and confides in her that he has Asperger’s Syndrome which affects his social interaction. She decides to enter into university to study mental disorders and ends up penning a highly acclaimed book with Max as her case study. The news is not well-received by Max and he cuts off communication with her, which sends Mary into a drug-induced, drunken stupor (after shredding her hard work to pieces and damning her career). On the verge of suicide, she wonders if Max will ever forgive her.
Let me immediately point out that this is not for young children or tweens. Don’t be wooed by the cartoon cover art or pictures of adorable Mary Daisy Dinkle with her clunky glasses and red barrette. It’s a complicated tale meant for adults. If you are unable to process rather gloomy, disheartening material without being able to bounce back emotionally, avoid this movie. Aside from the celebration of enduring friendship, there isn’t much to smile about. Alcoholism, mental illness, loneliness, pill popping, heartbreak, four deaths, overeating, involuntary manslaughter, schoolyard bullying… a small list of the obstacles the characters struggle to overcome.
The animation is beautifully done and the characters are a peculiar, quirky bunch with a myriad of flaws but endearing in their own ways. The stop-motion figures on the screen breathe life, full of raw, human emotion in such a profound manner, it can be a distressing, suffocating experience. That’s balanced with some incredibly kooky humor. The storyline flows effortlessly but, ultimately, it won’t appeal to a wider audience. High praise for writer and director, Adam Elliot, for having a unique vision and sticking to his guns. There has been mixed reviews on Barry Humphries’ narration. Personally, I found his voice very soothing.
This film appeases two long-time love affairs, claymation and stop-motion. It tickled my funny bone at the right moments but it was too melancholy, even for me.
The documentary begins in pitch black with the chilling 911 call made by 12 year old Melissa Repass, conscious after being shot five times. As she counts the bodies on the floor for the dispatcher, three of them children, you realize the murders at the Las Cruces Bowl in New Mexico are truly a nightmare. Minutes before the call, two men stole money from the safe and then shot seven people, execution style in their heads; the youngest of the victims, two year old Valerie Teran, who later died at the hospital. Miraculously, two others survived, Stephanie Senac and Ida Holguin. The cold-blooded killers have never been found.
The film includes interviews with detectives, the 911 dispatcher who took Melissa’s call, the survivors, and the dead victims’ families that will have grown men weeping. Midway, there is an attempt at detective work by questioning the owner of the bowling alley, Ronald Senac, who was out of town during the incident. It’s a notable effort but the interviewer often stumbles over the questions – slightly annoying. A completely unnecessary part of the film is a short blurb of the director, Charlie Minn, and crew, which has some people questioning his motives.
At an hour and 43 minutes, the film stretches on an hour too long. A Nightmare in Las Cruces packs its punch in the first half hour. About mid-point, it starts losing steam and you can sense the desperate attempts to keep the filler going with questions aimed at evoking waterworks, at which point you’re hopeful that the provocation ends soon. How long do these poor people need to be tortured? And are the questions being asked bringing anyone any closer to catching the monsters who looked a two year old baby in the eyes and then shot her in the forehead?
If you watch investigative shows like Dateline and 48 Hours, you’ll like this documentary. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride and, ultimately, there is no closure for the audience or the victims and victims’ families. It’s very depressing.
A couple of British comic book geeks, Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz), are in America for a science fiction convention and a subsequent RV roadtrip to the famed Area 51. En route, they meet an alien Paul who has been inhabiting a top-secret military base for the past 60 years. Desperate to leave Earth, he convinces the duo to help him get to the mother ship’s landing area. They soon find out that Paul is being chased by a relentless government agent, Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), who enlists the assistance of two inept feds, Haggard and O’Reilly.
They end up kidnapping Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a sheltered, unyielding religious zealot, which prompts her father to join in the pursuit. Along the way, they visit Tara (Blythe Danner), the human whose dog Paul crashed his ship on six decades earlier. After years of ridicule and harassment, she’s relieved to see Paul does indeed exist. Graeme, Clive, Paul, and Tara flee the premises after Zoil, Haggard, and O’Reilly raid her house. With the agents and Ruth’s father hot on their heels, can they get Paul safely to his mother ship in time?
Fans of the zany U.K. pair will relish this sci-fi/comedy collaboration featuring the voice talents of Seth Rogan as Paul. It’s directed by Greg Mottola who also directed the rude, crude Superbad and Paul follows in its footsteps with a lot of swearing and vulgar humor. Not as laugh out loud funny as Shaun of the Dead but it has its moments of utter hilarity. Sci-fi nerds will appreciate many of the references to movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., to name a couple. The CGI Paul blends seamlessly in with the flesh and blood characters. I loved the cameo by Sigourney Weaver – she’s still kicking ass and looks beautiful and cool doing it.
I do have to warn Christians and other religious types to avoid this movie if you can’t take a pretty harsh mocking of your beliefs. Ruth’s entire life is measured by her strict moral code, only for her faith and Bible instructed principles to be shattered by the knowledge of the universe that Paul telepathically shares with her. She transforms from a wholesome girl (although, wholesome may not be the right adjective, considering she wears a shirt that has Jesus shooting Darwin) to a cussing, pot-smoking, sin-seeking fugitive. Just a warning.
In the late 19th century, scientist Emmanuel Hildern (Peter Cushing) returns home to London with a prehistoric skeleton that he acquired in Papua New Guinea. While cleaning the skeleton, he learns that water triggers a horrific reaction – reanimation. He slices off the finger, now covered in flesh, and preserves it for later experiments.
While having breakfast with his daughter, Penelope (the breathtaking Lorna Heilbron), Emmanuel reads a letter informing him of his wife’s death. Unbeknowst to Penelope, her mother has been in an insane asylum since she was a little girl. Fearful that his wife’s mental illness may be hereditary, Emmanuel has sheltered his daughter at their estate with only the servants to keep her company. She’s not allowed outside, except for short walks within the gated premises.
Emmanuel travels to the institution where his wife died. He meets up with his half-brother, James (Christopher Lee), who happens to be the insane asylum’s director and a competing scientist. Emmanuel was always the favorite of the two siblings, the one destined to achieve greatness, so it’s with great pleasure that James tells him that he is in the running for the prestigious Richter Award. In addition, he will no longer fund Emmanuel’s transcontinental trips.
I’m not familiar with most horror predating 1980. I rate this somewhere between 60%-70% (about a 6.5/10). I’ve never watched a movie, horror or other genre, with so much anticipation and dread for what may come. The climax is truly a frightening one. The suspense is nail-biting! Lee and Cushing are great but it’s the beautiful Heilbron who steals the show. I want to watch more films she stars in.
I recommend this to horror fans who want to explore the classics. No gore, torture, or loud music cues to instill a false sense of fear. I liked it!
Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan, Atonement) lives in solitude in the Finland wilderness with her father, Erik (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA agent. For the past 16 years, he has been training her to be the perfect assassin. She is a skilled hunter and fluent in many languages but she longs for the outside world. Realizing that she is finally ready, he gives Hanna a transmitter box which she uses to dispatch her location to Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), another CIA agent.
Leaving his daughter behind, Erik sets out to Berlin where Hanna is to meet up with him after she has killed Marissa. She’s captured, taken to Morocco, and interrogated by a double for Agent Wiegler. Believing the double is the real Marissa, Hanna snaps her neck and flees from the facility, but not before getting her hands on classified files about her own DNA. An intensive manhunt for Erik and Hanna begins.
You should know that this isn’t your typical action film fueled by crazy spurts of adrenaline. No car chases through busy streets, superhuman stunts, or fiery explosions. In fact, it’s more of Hanna’s coming-of-age story – her first real friend, experiencing the power of music and dance after wondering about it for so long, encountering technology and electricity after a decade and a half of kerosene lamps, being with a boy. This is a bit of a Euro Art House film so if you’re looking for a movie like Salt, you’ll be vastly disappointed.
As a David Lynch fan (director Joe Wright cited him as a major influence), I give Wright props but The Chemical Brothers score is invasive at times. As a stand-alone soundtrack, it is freaking awesome. What Daft Punk does for Tron doesn’t always work in Hanna. Take Hanna’s escape from the CIA safe house in Morocco, for instance. The blaring track and flickering lights are enough to put the average person into a rockin’ epileptic seizure.
Recommended to those who have the patience to let their tea steep but not to action junkies looking for a quick adrenaline fix.