Blair Witch (2016)

Director: Adam Wingard

Running Time: 88 mins. 

Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernadez, some woods, a torch, a bull horn. 

Those of us who connected with The Blair Witch Project in 1999 did so on a psychological level resulting in the heebie-jeebies of a high level, especially in the witches cottage at the climax. 


Blair Witch 2: Book Of Shadows 2000 was frankly abysmal. 


Luckily Blair Witch 2016 follows Heather’s brother as he follows his sisters trail into Burkittsville’s woods. The way is shown by an online freak who claims to have been the one to discover the original tapes. So far so good. 

It’s all good on paper but from here on in I was let down. 

Apparently the director used a bull horn to get the correct jumpy responses from the cast. This is a good illustration of the failure of the jump scares. A loud noise after silence makes you jump but it isn’t ‘scary’. So you’ll get no points from me for that.

Especially when the noise is just loud running water, fire, supposed digital video glitching or any other mundane goings on. 


To say this group of people are in a wood, they seem to be able to disappear quickly and reappear an inch from camera without a single twig snap. 


The climax offers a well designed creepy cottage return though and the witch herself is fleetingly menacing and yet ultimately not. 


There’s not enough here for me to return to this film but I enjoyed the ride all the same out of a live fit the original. It’s no Book Of Shadows but it’s not as good as The Conjouring 2. 

C Whitehouse 2016

 

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Don’t Breathe (2016) 

Director: Fed Alverez  

Running Time: 87 minutes. 

Cast: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto. 


I actually went to see this film because I thought Sam Raimi directed it but in fact he only produced. He did however get Jane Levy from the Evil Dead remake in it and it was directed by the director of Evil Dead also. Jane plays one of three burglars, along with Dylan Minnette, most recently from Goosebumps and Daniel Zovatto, who break into a blind mans house for one last score. But sadly for them, the tenant is a blind war veteran. They see it as an easy grab but they didn’t account for this guy, played by Avatar’s Stephen Lang, being basically a blind Rambo with a secret. Slightly reminiscent of 10 Cloverfield Lane due to the small enclosed innards of the one address and had me wondering ‘is this a reverse Home Alone?’. 

It’s a roller coaster ride of tension with the blind man is like a replacement for the usual Horror monster. It eventually settles into a routine of one thing after another In quick succession which started to take me out of the reality of the situation. There were too many man sized crawl spaces in the walls and the ‘Cujo’ ripoff was something I would’ve left out. Even with these trips though it’s still a taut thriller which never lets up and does have a shock scene which will have girls crossing their legs just like the original Evil Dead did. Personally I wouldn’t class it as a horror at all but there are a couple of jump scares to start things off. More of a DVD film than a cinema trip out. 

C Whitehouse 2016

Bridget Jones Baby (2016)

Director: Sharon Maguire

Running Time: 2 hours 

Cast: Renee Zellwegger, Colin Forth, Patrick Dempsey, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, Gemma Jones. 


Bridget Jones returns to the big screen with a new set of problems. Life is selling her short as usual but in the space of a week she beds two men and finds herself pregnant. One of the males is an American billionaire called Jack played by Patrick Dempsey (who is 24th down the cast list on imdb) and the other is,well, Colin Firth. But who is the father of the unborn child? There you have the crux of the story but happily hanging on the bones of an idea is a very humorous and sweary story of a clumsy woman trying to juggle her work life and her new found pregnancy while dealing with various stages of pregnancy. There’s an awkwardness as Mr Darcy returns on the scene just by happenstance and rivalry between the two potential fathers raising emotions for all. While mostly funny, I also felt touched by the love for the baby angle and especially the two fathers feelings for wanting to be there for Bridget and baby. Naturally the males butt horns as the jockey for position and this echoes the first outing as well as This Means War which had two men battling over Reece Witherspoon. I was afraid that this may be fluffy girly nonsense but it isn’t that at all. I enjoyed Bridget’s company and her accent was surprisingly good too. It felt good to see the female take on the role of the hapless lead rather than the male and although it runs the same confident path of a Richard Curtis movie, it never went saccharine. In short, I can’t knock it. I’d happily sit through another like that but not like the second Bridget Jones. Supporting cast such as Emma Thompson, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones and Shirley Henderson also make this an easy watch whether you’ve been dying to watch it or are simply being pulled along. 


C Whitehouse . 2016

Kubo and the two strings (2016) 

Director: Travis Knight

Running time: 1 hour 45 mins

Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron. 


Laika studios have done it again. After the wobble (in my opinion) that was The Boxtrolls, the magic is captured again as this far eastern flavoured tale of a split apart family, delights both the eye and heart. 

The boy Kubo learns he must acquire a magical armour if he is to survive his aunts and grandfather as they seek his other eye, the first which they took when he was a baby. That brings me to the darkness at its heart and it’s been the same since Coraline where eyes were swapped for buttons. 

It’s as though these films are made for adults who are kids at heart firstly and then made acceptable for young ones to view if they can handle it. 

The use of origami is masterful and no doubt painstakingly recreated. The Laika humour is peppered throughout and is brilliantly delivered by Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes and Charlize Theron and not forgetting Art Parkinson as Kubo. 

The evil aunt sisters are voiced by Rooney Mara and are like something from Clive Barkers horror novels. 

In short I loved it. But I still love Paranorman and Coraline more. 

The themes of death and revenge are not played for a kiddie crowd but delivered in black and white touching any audience member who has dealt with a dying family member and bringing tears of understanding. 

Just a beautifully constructed piece of storytelling and yet one that the whole family will take something from. 


C Whitehouse 2016

The Danish Girl (2016) Showing Sunday 18th September 

Director: Tom Hooper 

Running time: 2 hours 

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw.

Tom Hooper once again makes a film which I assume I won’t like and yet I’m proven wrong. First it was The Kings Speech, now it’s Thee Danish Girl. Eddie Redmayne was fabulous in Hawking and yet terrible in Jupiter Ascending. Thankfully he is very good as Einer Wegener who is asked to help out for his wife Gerda, played by Alicia Vikander, as a model who can’t make the final sitting, in order for Gerda to complete her life painting. The feel of the stockings and dress hems and lace awakens something buried deep inside him. This gives birth to a female version of his character who, with Gerda’s help, brings Lilly to life. Soon enough though, Lilly is around more than Einer and when Gerda tries to ask for her husband back, it seems there’s little of him to show. Based on one of the earliest accounts of a transgender operation, this is an emotional roller coaster and one which will have you debating with yourself and others what the right thing to do is. I felt Einer’s plight and struggle early on but began to feel strongly for Gerda too until you just want both to have their way. 

To be honest, Redmayne often looks like man in dress and lipstick, while other times he emotes femininity convincingly while not just simply mincing about the place. While Einer and Lilly are strongly portrayed, it’s Vikander’s 

Journey that I was pulled along with. Two strong actors who at times felt as though they were in a play to me rather than a movie. 

But there’s a weight to the choices made here as you invest in the couple. Also the movie touches on the doctors who analyse Einer and come up with some frightening conclusions. 

An important portrayal of a huge step in changes in society which is nowadays much much less of an issue. While it’s important to be yourself and you have that right, what cost to those around you and does your desire outweigh theirs? 


C Whitehouse 2016

Finding Dory (2016) film review. 


Director: Andrew Stanton

Running Time: 1 hour 37. 

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olsen, Hayden Rolence, Dianne Keaton, Eugene Levy. 

Pixar are back on top form after the oddity of Monsters University and Cars 2 (and in my opinion Toy Story 3) proved that they find sequels much more of a challenge. Andrew Stanton shows his strengths through story telling as this tender, charming and slightly sad movie plays with its audience like an old friend returning. Dory’s story naturally concentrates on her short term memory loss and her bright and cheery persona. You think she’s cute as an adult? Wait to see her as a kid! Nemo and Marlin are involved in this tale and the original movie even plays out again for a minute near the start. There are a small handful of repeat characters from Nemo’s adventure but that makes sense because of the micro society in which the fish live. But the story pulls our little team across the ocean again but this time it’s the lure of Dory’s parents which sets the journey in motion. The title Finding Dory is a tad misleading but all for the better as its good to not expect what’s coming. There’s a new star in town too as Hank the Septopus boosts the movie action as he interacts with Dory whilst on his own great adventure. Naturally the animation and writing is great but taking centre stage is the emotion. This movie has a melancholy tone because we feel deeply for our cheery blue star and care about her when she’s sad. Haters may say it plays too closely to Finding Nemo in the progression of deep sea to action set pieces to similar climax locations but I felt it all made sense. Nice use of Pixar voice favourites and good use of a big cinema star as herself which I didn’t see on the horizon. 


The heartfelt plight of Dory and the different types of sea life and their set personalities makes for a lovely sequel to enjoy again and again. 

Pixar may have submerged momentarily but here they float once again to the top. 


C Whitehouse 2016 

The Neon Demon (2016)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn 

Running time: 2 hours

Cast: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Keanu Reeves, Christina Henricks, Karl Glusman. 

I had every fibre of my being wanting to like Nicolas Winding Refn’s movie Only God Forgives with Ryan Gosling starring. But ultimately I knew it was not something I fully enjoyed at all, in fact much of it, I simply endured. I feared that this vapid arty look at modelling and the value of beauty would be worse. 

There are many haters for this movie and I fully accept that many will find this slow motion, slow dialogue, long shot and out of body experience of a film to be like a bad migraine. But I have to admit I was captivated. Elle Fanning has mesmerised me since Super 8. She is perfectly cast newbie Jesse entering the modelling world in Los Angeles. The film delivers like the best work of David Lynch with its horrors and emotional strains being set to an unsettling musical score. The film is shot partly in a palette of rich colours to highlight the models fake plastic world which they inhabit. Winding Refn claims to be colour blind and only see contrast but I have no idea if that’s true. It would explain why he makes such artistic looking films. Maybe we should watch them with the colour set to black and a white to get the full benefit. 

But between the shiny clever- clever directed phases, there’s a straight forward style of film to be found where the characters try and lead a life out of the glare of a camera. Another touch stone would be the excellent Black Swan which was also partially demented and just as weirdly rewarding. 

I think if you are prepared for the almost supernatural eeriness of the Neon Demon then you may find something to enjoy. Put it this way, if you don’t like the first ten minutes then it’s not for you. Jena Malone co stars along with Keanu Reeves who both lend an interesting weight to proceedings and have both a history in the off centre kind of movies where reality is skewed. I’m thinking or Sucker Punch for Malone and A Scanner Darkly for Reeves, both of which I adore.

If you’ve managed to watch the classic Eraserhead all the way through then I have high hopes you’ll find some gold here. 



C Whitehouse 2016