Movie Review: Before I Wake (2017)

Good *insert the time of day you read this in here*, hope you’re doing well. Time for more spooktacular content. So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Before I Wake”.

Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) are a loving couple who have made the decision to adopt a young boy (Jacob Tremblay). What they don’t know however is that this boy carries a special, strange secret. The story in this movie is an interesting one, often leaning more towards a dark fantasy rather than outright horror… at least early on. Towards the later half it leans heavier on the horror elements. And I must say that I found the story here quite enjoyable. It has some interesting themes that we’ve seen discussed multiple times in works by this director, and while this isn’t his most engaging or nuanced take on the subject matter, it’s still a generally well written and enjoyable narrative that managed to creep me out a few times.

The characters in this are alright, not the most deep or interesting ever, but they work well for the story. Kate Bosworth does a really good job as Jessie, Thomas Jane is great as Mark, Jacob Tremblay is of course great as Cody, the kid that the couple adopts. And then you also have an interesting supporting cast, featuring people like Annabeth Gish, Dash Mihok, Kyla Deaver, Jay Karnes, and more!

The score for the movie was composed by Danny Elfman, along with the Newton Brothers (talk about one hell of a teamup), and I’d say they did a solid job together. It’s an ambient score that manages to build a fair bit of drama, helping add a good bit of emotion to certain scenes. There’s also of course some classic loud horror hits, and they work fine, even though we’ve heard that sort of stuff a kajillion times.

“Before I Wake” was directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan (hell yeah), and also has a bit of an interesting production history. Apparently Relativity Media bought the rights in 2014, slating the film for a 2015 release, but later got pulled due the company going bankrupt. Eventually after much back and forth it then landed in the hands of Netflix, who finally released it in 2017 worldwide… except for the states who got it in 2018. So yeah, it’s an interesting tale. Anyhow, back to Flanagan.
This man doesn’t miss when it comes to directing. Even in this film, which isn’t one of my favorites he’s done, he still does a damn good job. His direction has this simmering, slowly burning, often dreamlike vibe that just makes each scene a hell of a lot more engaging.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 66% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While not my favorite film from Flanagan, “Before I Wake” is still an enjoyable little horror-fantasy that I can recommend. It has a good plot, pretty good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Before I Wake” is a 7.44/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Before I Wake” is now completed.

I don’t know about you, but before I wake, I sleep.

Movie Review: We Can Be Heroes! (2002)

Time for the Summer of the Swedes to keep going. So what’s on the menu today? A children’s film? Oh fuck.

Ladies and gentlemen… “We Can Be Heroes!” (Original title: Bäst i Sverige!).

Marcello (Ariel Petsonk) doesn’t have it easy. He’s bullied by some boys in schools, and his parents (Michael Nyqvist, Anna Pettersson) try to dictate where his life is supposed to go. But when he befriends the new girl in his class (Zamand Hägg), his life starts changing in a few ways. If some of these elements sound familiar, that’s because you’ve seen other movies. But just because this film borrows cliches from other ones doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, I’d argue the story here is pretty good, with writing that takes the cliches and uses them in charming and enjoyable ways. There’s a lot of times when our main character has really vivid dreams, both in the middle of the day and during the night, which serve to not only develop him as a character, but also further the plot and also entertain. And it helps make the storytelling here feel fresh and fun. There are one or two moments in the story that maybe don’t fit too much, since they push the suspension of disbelief a bit too much, but overall I really liked the story here.

The characters in this are colorful, fun, and at times surprisingly nuanced. Sure, they all might seem like walking cliches at first. But as the story moves on, we see most of them get some decent development that makes them endearing and likable. And the cast, which features people like Ariel Petsonk, Zamand Hägg, Michael Nyqvist, Anna Pettersson, Ralph Carlsson, Pontus Stenshäll, and more, all do pretty well in their respective roles.

The music in this movie is based heavily in a lot of pop tunes, which I guess is used to help add to the overall fun tone of the movie. I’m not saying all of them 100% fit all of the time, but I also don’t think any of the tracks ruin the mood at all. The songs work fine.

“We Can Be Heroes!” was directed and edited by Ulf Malmros, and I think he did a damn good job. The way he shoots a scene is energetic and fast-paced, while still allowing for some of the more quiet scenes to nicely simmer. And man, the editing is really good too. Malmros knows when to make perfect cuts and how to nicely transition between reality and Marcello’s dreams. The craft here is really good. And since this is a comedy (despite imdb not acknowledging it), how is the humor? Fucking funny. It’s charming, it’s silly, it’s cute, it’s even a little brash at times… and most of it made me laugh.

On Rotten Tomatoes it exists with no rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5,8/10.

“We Can Be Heroes!” had a bit of an uphill battle with me, being both from my own home country and a children’s film. But god damn, it managed to win me over. It’s a charming little comedy about finding yourself. It has a good plot, really good characters, really good performances, pretty good music, great directing/editing, and funny comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “We Can Be Heroes!” is an 8,89/10. So I’d definitely say it’s worth buying.

My review of “We Can be Heroes!” is now completed.

Things are starting to look up.

Movie Review: Take Shelter (2011)

I would try to come up with some clever intro to this, but this movie stumped me in that regard. Can’t come up with something clever or fun for an intro to this. Ummm… Michael Shannon, amiright?

Ladies and gentlemen… “Take Shelter”.

When he starts getting apocalyptic visions, Curtis (Michael Shannon) starts trying to rebuild the old storm shelter in his backyard. But his strange change in behavior starts creating some problems with everything in his life, from his family to his job. And throughout the movie we sit and wonder, is he actually seeing the end of the world, or is he just a bit crazy. But it’s not so much a big and loud apocalyptic thriller (like some movies might do), aiming more for a human drama that explores the desperation of this man in trying to figure all this crazy shit out. It’s very slow-paced, but that works quite well for the story as it helps in fleshing it out. So it’s quite a good plot.

The characters in this all feel quite realistic and I thought they were all interesting. Michael Shannon plays Curtis, the construction worker who starts getting these strange and scary dreams/visions. He’s a good father and husband as well as a good worker. So seeing him change as a person due to these scary dreams/visions is quite interesting, and turns into an intriguing character study. And Michael Shannon is fantastic in the role, giving one of his more subdued performances (though he does get at least one explosive moment). Then we have Jessica Chastain as Curtis’ wife Sam. A lot of her arc lies in her reacting to her husband’s situation(s), and it’s quite interesting, especially since it leads to some emotionally charged moments. And Chastain is great in the role. Then we have Tova Stewart as Curtis’ daughter Hannah. Hannah is deaf, and that’s probably the most interesting aspect of her. She gets the least amount of development over the movie, but she’s still an interesting piece of this puzzle. And Stewart is good in the role. Then we get some supporting work here from people like Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Robert Longstreet, and more, all doing well in their roles.

The score for the movie was composed by David Wingo and it’s good. It’s less focused on melodies or being instantly recognizable, acting more as ambient noise for the various scenes. But it works quite well for the movie as it helps build drama and a sense of dread throughout the movie.

The movie was written and directed by Jeff Nichols and I think he did a really good job with that. While a lot of directors would’ve tried to build a lot of tension with their directing, making it as noticeable as possible, Nichols is a lot more subtle, carefully capturing the human drama and subtly building a sense of dread over the entire situation. And it made me feel a lot more invested in what was going on.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 85/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,4/10.

“Take Shelter” is a subdued and highly effective psychological drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Take Shelter” is a 9,56/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Take Shelter” is now completed.

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

Movie Review: The Hero (2017)

Life. It’s short, but it’s also the lengthiest event we’ll experience. It’s such a fascinating subject. Why are we here,? Why are we who we are? What could I have done better? So many questions about something we mostly take for granted.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Hero”.

Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) is an old actor who was famous for playing a gunslinger back in the day. And one day he gets the news that he has cancer and will eventually die from it. So we follow his journey as he tries to come to terms with his past mistakes/successes and his mortality. And right up front, this plot is filled with clichés. He has an estranged daughter (Krysten Ritter), he was known for one thing which has followed him his entire life, he meets a woman (Laura Prepon) that he strikes up a relationship with… and overall the plot isn’t very original. And there are moments where it can come off as a little bit pretentious with long, contemplative shows of oceans and nature and shit like that. But it’s still an honest and heartfelt plot that I could easily follow, and I found myself interested in what was going on. Yes, it is clichéd, and it’s not perfect, but it’s still pretty solid.

The characters in this can, like the plot, come off as a bit cliché. But I still found myself interested in them and their parts in the story. Sam Elliott plays Lee Hayden, a very Sam Elliott-y man. He’s never had a true big break, and is known mainly as a bit of a cowboy… kind of like Sam Elliott. He’s a charming old man that we get to know pretty well throughout the movie. And I have to say that Elliott was fantastic in the role. It’s a fairly subdued performance, and it really impressed me. Laura Prepon plays Charlotte, the woman that Lee finds himself striking up a bit of a romance with. While she isn’t the deepest of characters, I still found myself caring about her somewhat due to her interesting relationship with Lee. And Prepon is really good in the role. Nick Offerman plays Lee’s weed dealer/best friend. He’s a fun presence popping up a couple times throughout the movie, and Offerman is good in the role. Krysten Ritter plays Lee’s estranged daughter Lucy, and she isn’t the happiest with her old man. She is fairly bitter when we meet her, but not to an unrealistic degree. She is willing to give him a chance, even if it’s not the most tempting thing. And Ritter is really good in the role. Really, every actor in this movie does a good job.

The score for the movie was composed by Keegan DeWitt and it was good. It’s very much so in the “contemplative drama” style of music, where you have a lot of droning or distant-sounding high notes to create a thought-provoking mood for the movie, with the occasional piano thrown in there. And it works well for this movie. There were also a couple of licensed tracks used in the movie and they worked fine for their scenes. Good music.

This movie was directed by Brett Haley and I think he did a good job with it. The movie almost has a dreamlike quality at times, even in moments that aren’t dream sequences, which gives the movie a fairly unique feel. And the cinematography by Rob Givens was really good, this movie looks really good. For anyone wondering, this movie is partially listed as a comedy, but there isn’t too much humor here, it is mainly a drama. But the little humor there is in this I thought was pretty funny. Just thought I’d adress it just so you didn’t go watching this thinking it was a straight-up comedy.

This movie has gotten some okay reception On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 77% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 61/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,6/10.

While flawed, “The Hero” is still a solid little drama. It has a pretty good plot, mostly meh characters, great performances, really good music, and really good directing/cinematography. My problems with the movie are the plot being very clichéd and also most of the characters not being that great. Time for my final score. *Howdy*. My final score for “The Hero” is a 7,77/10. While flawed, I’d say that this movie is most definitely worth a rental.

My review of “The Hero” is now completed.

I just want Sam Elliott to narrate my life…

Movie Review: La La Land (2016)

Confession time: I am not a big fan of musicals. At least not live action musicals, Disney animated musicals I have no real problem with. It’s easy for me to believe that a cartoon would burst into song and dance. A real person, not so much. So even when a musical has a lot of buzz around it, I go into them mildly skeptical. I’m not saying that I’m against musicals, just that they’re my least favorite kind of movie.

Ladies and gentlemen… “La La Land”.

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress, struggling to get parts in movies. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist not getting a lot of great gigs. Both live in Los Angeles, and after they run into each other a couple times they start dating. And we follow them as they through the ups and downs of their relationship and respective careers. And I thought the plot here was quite good. It follows a lot of familiar beats that we’ve seen in other romance movies, but it does it in such a charming and well written way that I don’t mind the familiar aspects of the story. It also has a very inspiring message about going for what you want and achieving your dreams. It really is a love letter to the dreamers out there in the world. And I liked that. It is overall a good plot.

The characters here are likable, charming, and fairly interesting. Mia, like I said, is an aspriring actress who wants to get her big break, but struggles to even get any part in various movies she’s auditioning for. But she keeps going even if she sometimes doubts herself. And Emma stone is great in the role. Sebastian is man who’s passionate about jazz, wanting to play it to people even though he isn’t always allowed. And Ryan Gosling is great in the role. I also want to mention that Stone and Gosling share some really good chemistry, they were really likable together. We also get musician John Legend in a supporting role here, and he actually did a good job. J.K. Simmons also shows up briefly in the movie, and while he doesn’t do a lot I’d still say that he’s great… come on, he’s J.K. fucking Simmons, he’s always great. And yeah, it’s an overall well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Justin Hurwitz, and the stuff he made here was great. It’s charming, it’s fun, it’s dramatic, it’s beautiful, and it just overall fits the movie very well. And I guess we should talk about the sung songs since this is a musical. They are incredibly catchy, and compared to a lot of other musicals, are very well inserted into the movie. In a lot of musicals there’s no good flow between normal scene and song/dance number, the stuff just happens suddenly. But “La La Land” is one of those rare cases that has good flow between scenes and songs, which I really appreciate. It also helps that the songs are great and just fun to listen to. So yeah, the music here is great.

This movie was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the man behind the excellently excellent “Whiplash”. And he really shows what a talented director he is here. Everything has a lot of energy to it and it flows very nicely, making for an interesting watch. I do also think Linus Sandgren’s cinematography helps it out. Also, WOW look at all the colors! If you think about it, a lot of popular movies these days have a pretty drab color palette. But “La La Land” puts in a lot of color, making for one of the most pleasant viewing experiences in recent years. I also love the retro vibe that this movie has, despite it being set in modern day. The opening titles, retro. The clothing, retro. The overall style of the movie, retro. The movie is such a delight in terms of style.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 93/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,2/10 and is ranked #134 on the “Top 250” list. The movie won 6 Oscars in the categories of Best actress (Stone), Best director, Best cinematography, Best original score, Best original song, and Best production design. It was also nominated for an additional 8 (wow!) Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best actor (Gosling), Best original screenplay, Best film editing, Best costume design, Best sound mixing, Best sound editing, and Best original song. 

“La La Land” is a really solid musical dramedy. It has a really good plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *La La LAAAAAAAA*. My final score for “La La Land” is a 9,77/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “La La Land” is now completed.

That was delightful… which is the exact opposite of “Whiplash”.