A Monster Calls

“A Monster Calls” is a heart-wrenching yet artistic view into a 12-year boy and his troubled life. With a slowly dying Mom, a divorced dad who lives far away, and a grandmother with a gruff and unemotional manner, he is dealing with quite a lot. Also, his time in school is marred by a group of bullies who confront him every day. If only he had the size and strength and courage of a Monster…

Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) lives in a small rural town in the English countryside. His life is in turmoil because his Mom, Lizzie (Felicity Jones) is getting worse with a terminal illness. It is difficult at school, because there are boys that bully Conor, mostly because he has a sick mom and he is a good artist. Mom and Dad (Toby Kebbell ) are divorced, and he lives in California. Dad comes to visit, but he again shows that he is not part of Conor’s life.

When Lizzie gets so bad that she needs to be in the hospital, Conor must stay with his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). She is strict with Conor, and she cares more about cleanliness and keeping order in her house than she does about Conor. Conor has dreams of being big and strong and getting his way. He wants to set things right, and to get his Mom back. Then one night, something strange happens.

Out on the distant hill, there is an old church and a still older yew tree. The anxiety and pain in Conor’s life is felt by the yew tree. It comes to life, and it comes to visit Conor. The immense humanoid tree seems very scary, yet he speaks with a gentle but authoritative voice. The Monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) has three stories to tell Conor, and when he is done, Conor must tell him one story.

The stories that the Monster tells are illustrated with a beautiful watercolor animation sequence. The first story is about a magical kingdom that has kings and queens. The second story is about a pastor who shames an old man who sells roots and herbs that can cure people. The third is about an invisible man and a monster that helped him. Conor hears the stories, but they do not work out the way that he thought they would.

Conor hears the stories, but he overreacts. He drives away his father and becomes more distant to his grandmother. He goes overboard and destroys everything precious in his grandmother’s living room. He is overcome with rage and fights back against the bully, but sends him to the hospital. In each of these cases, even when he has done something outrageous and destructive, he does not receive any punishment. Conor is simply dealing with too much stress, they all say.

But nobody knows about the Monster, and nobody knows about the stories. They surely don’t know that Conor now has to tell his story, and Conor is very afraid. The Monster said that he was sent for healing, but Conor’s mom is still in bed at the hospital. Conor is sad, angry and confused. Exactly why did the Monster come to visit with Conor?

The story of “A Monster Calls” is very simple and direct. It focuses on Conor and what he is going through. He feels alone and powerless until the Monster calls upon Conor. But the final story reveals the full sadness in Conor’s life and what he truly wants. He is ashamed to have the Monster know what he feels inside. The dread and sadness of the story are then lifted up by the artistic beauty of the story sequences and the emotional release at the end.

Lewis MacDougall is a major young actor who can handle the tricky role of Conor. He is well cast and performs in a very believable way. Felicity Jones does ok with the Lizzie role. However, not a great deal is asked of her in the role, and she fades out near the end.  Sigourney Weaver does a sturdy job as the grandmother, who at first seems very mean and harsh, but she learns that Conor is more important than just things in the house.

The Monster is voiced by Liam Neeson, who has a very distinct quality of overwhelming scariness in his tone, but has a soft and comforting aspect as well. The Monster design is very well-done CGI. It has the unfortunate tendency of bringing to mind a similar character from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”. So the Monster is a huge giant, and he is a big tree. This movie might be called “The BFG 2: The Big Friendly Groot”.

A Cure For Wellness Official Trailer

A CURE FOR WELLNESS

Director: Gore Verbinski

Screenplay by: Justin Haythe; Story by Justin Haythe & Gore Verbinski

Producers:  Arnon Milchan, p.g.a.; Gore Verbinski, p.g.a; David Crockett, p.g.a.

Cast:  Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth

 

SYNOPSIS

An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps.  He soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem.  When he begins to unravel its terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests here longing for the cure.  From Gore Verbinski, the visionary director of THE RING, comes the new psychological thriller, A CURE FOR WELLNESS. 


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In Theaters February 17, 2017

http://www.fandango.com

Man Down

Is there an issue with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Of course there is, and it needs to be addressed. Is there a potential for family issues when a solider comes back to his family from the war front? Yes, and it can be quite severe. Is the best way to present these problems wrapped up in a movie that cannot decide if it is a serious look at the situation, or an overly dramatized version of the warrior’s mental disconnect?

That is “Man Down”, which follows the solider named Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) who is married to Natalie (Kate Mara) and has a young son named Jonathan (Charlie Shotwell). He joins the Marines with his best friend Devin (Jai Courtney). Gabe gets sent to Afghanistan, while Devin recovers from an injury back in the States. Devin soon joins him over there in the thick of the nasty action.

 

Later, Gabe has a sit-down session with Captain Peyton (Gary Oldman) about ‘the incident’. It is finally revealed that a mistake by Gabe led to an ambush attack that had killed Devin. But then, later on when Gabe is back with his family, Gabe shuns his wife and his son to hang around with Devin. Eventually Gabe and Devin prowl about the bleak apocalyptic landscape for his son. But Devin did not make it back…

The late Devin is Gabe’s closest friend and Gabe’s metal state is in question. Captain Peyton talked with Gabe about his reaction to ‘the incident’, and Gabe is still in denial. So now Gabe and Devin are searching a destroyed cityscape searching for his son. They meet a guy named Charlie (Clifton Collins Jr.) who says he knows nothing. But there are many clues that he knows Gabe’s son, and where he might be hiding.

But how much of Gabe’s post-war travels with Devin are real? Exactly what happened in ‘the incident’? And what happened back on the home front between Devin and Kate, when Gabe was deployed overseas? Does Captain Peyton know how broken Gabe is on the inside?

Any of these questions could be enough to construct a deep and meaningful movie. But the way that the various incidents and episodes are put together on the screen make a little too jumbled. The connection between the bleak deserted place and the happy home front does get revealed, and it is done in a very subtle way. But the various sequences do not seem to tie up as neatly as they should.

 

Shia LaBeouf does a workable job as Gabe. He is mostly very understated, but then at some points he is a little bit overemotional and melodramatic. Kate Mara and Jai Courtney have very cookie-cutter roles, and they do the best that they can.  Gary Oldman puts some empathy into his character and makes a very good impression. Clifton Collins Jr. has a brief role, but is creepy and odd-ball as that character.

A movie a few years back about the mental tribulations of John Nash was called ‘A Beautiful Mind’. This movie might be called ‘A FUBAR Mind’. That would describe the nightmare of delusions that Gabe finds himself in during the movie. It is truly scary place to be. But is might not be the best way to bring attention to the real problems of soldiers.

Get Out Official Trailer

In Universal Pictures’ Get Out, a speculative thriller from Blumhouse (producers of The Visit, Insidious series and The Gift) and the mind of Jordan Peele, when a young African-American man visits his white girlfriend’s family estate, he becomes ensnared in a more sinister real reason for the invitation.

Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, Sicario) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams, Girls), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy (Catherine Keener, Captain Phillips) and Dean (Bradley Whitford, The Cabin in the Woods).

At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.

Arrival

When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team – lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity. Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker Director: Denis Villeneuve
The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

“The Girl on the Train” is based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel of the same name and is adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) and directed by actor/director Tate Taylor who directed “The Help” and “Get on Up”.  There’s plenty of talent there alone to entice you to the theatre this weekend but I’ll give you a few more good reasons to catch this somewhat complicated whodunnit; Emily Blunt, who is simply brilliant in her role, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux.  The story starts with introducing you to a girl on a train, Rachel (Blunt), more woman than girl in years but girl in behavior, as she tells you of the houses she passes each day and her curiosity as to what the lives are like within them.  She begins to more or less obsess over one particular couple in love, Megan (Bennett) and Scott (Evans), who reside in a house she wished she lived.  He is the sexy husband she desires to have and she is the beautiful young woman with whom she longed to be.  Soon, we learn that she had once lived two doors down in a lovely home that is still occupied by her ex-husband, Tom (Theroux), his wife, Anna (Ferguson), and their baby.  What led to her divorce may be what now leads her to occupy her mind with such things as what goes on in what she considers to be a more perfect life than hers; alcohol, her personal demon.  She drinks heavily, on the train and off, and is paranoid,often blacks out and sees things that may or may not be actually happening, because of her drinking problem. 

The story has a purposely, sometimes agonizingly, slow reveal, using flashbacks to catch you up on what gets Rachel to this point in life.  It also uses this trick to show the direction her life now leads as well as solidly placed scenes to throw you off the scent as to where the chiller is taking you.  It’s leading up to a moment when she gets off the train, wanting to take action on a situation she sees happen and getting involved in something she shouldn’t be.  Her plight gets more and more involved and she gets deeper and deeper into something she now cannot escape.

Some of the dialogue can be trite and a bit stuffy at times but overall, the mystery she becomes entangled in is one of the best I’ve seen since the fantastic, “Gone Girl” from 2014. Not wanting to reveal much more about the story I will add that Blunt is most likely looking at a best actress nomination.  She plays her character with passion and despair and motivates you to go on this journey with her and you’re more than happy to hitch your wagon to it.  Wilson and Taylor have given three woman the opportunity to excel and they more than do.  Theroux, as well as the rest of the supporting cast, also stand out bringing this thriller to life for what will be one of your favorite complex stories of the year.