Demon House

 

This Film Is Cursed.

This Film Is A Documentary.

Be wary of watching this film in the dark, Demon House, from the host of Ghost Adventures, surrounds a truly cursed house in Gary, Indiana. If anyone is familiar with the Ghost Adventures crew and show, the documentary plays out very similarly to the show. The takes and cinematography reflect the insights of the show and the re-enactments can easily frighten. Zak Bagans, the host, is an eloquent narrator and main focus throughout the film- he is the control subject in a rather intense experiment. He puts himself into environments that the family was in and slowly tries to discern what factual evidence he can collect. This puts this documentary firmly in the grips of reality by checking all factors of environmental interference. He is in this to either debunk or learn more- Demon House definitely delivers. From using high tech science equipment to measure electromagnetic fields from the earth, to a home inspection Bagans does it all. Straight off the bat he wants you to know exactly what you are in store for, and that he does not wish to fool anyone.  

Throughout my sitting of this I kept an open mind, naturally I'm in the middle of believing and being a skeptic about it all. However in this "dimension" of filming you have to wonder occasionally if it is the dramatics of filmmaking or the trauma of the people involved that really gets you. There are a lot of indicators that this could easily be classified as a "horror" film; slight tension, scary monsters, and an exorcism. In Demon House it becomes clear quickly that you are in the middle of an investigation rather than a plot driven story. The interviews are real, the people are real, and most importantly the evidence becomes increasingly real. The one negative I found is the additive of Hollywood into the story. The minuscule amount of information the audience gathers is that Hollywood wants the story, and the family is willing to deliver. This one dark splotch on the film is irritating, I was glad that Bagans' shows this as it proves his viewpoint and the films intention. By doing this you truly grasp as to how the film is going to proceed, and it quickly escalates for the crew and the audience in the best way.

If you are familiar with Ghost Adventures then you know Bagans and his crew find a way to truly set themselves apart in this scenario by investigating, not just filming. When Bagans finally finds himself in the house alone, you are sole witness to the examples of what this house can shell out. Adding the multiple witnesses previously seen within the film, Demon House elevates itself to a horror story in the form of a documentary. These people truly saw what they did and there is no convincing them otherwise. 

My own view of the film is still in the land of the "in between". I've had my own rather strange experiences and the person I was watching this with certainly freaked out for the next couple of days. Still the quality of film making and investigating gives Demon House a rightful spot as a horror film. Still more on the suspenseful aspect of it all, the film truly is cursed, it only makes you want to know more about what Bagans and his team do.

 
 

Molly's Game

DFF40 Big Night Presentation

 Jessica Chastian and Idris Elba 

Jessica Chastian and Idris Elba 

 
 

First, it’s time to take a masterclass in how to truly master the dialogue in a movie that is heavily driven on a game that most rarely know how to play. I had the chance recently to be able to witness Aaron Sorkin’s new film and understand how this master at words became a viewing glass to a very human story. 

There are a couple things that need to be known first, I honest to god love this movie, it had the wit and humor that I needed out of a subject so heavily involved in a man’s world. While all being drawn, written, and directed by a woman — Molly Bloom. She is directing her own life after all. Bloom’s story encapsulated the rational thoughts of any quick human on the planet and the need to make sure that strength and the need for control can be a double blade for a sense of self security. It’s hard to describe what it was like witnessing the movie without giving away much as it is still a joy to go and witness the film. 

To begin there is Jessica Chastain, whom deserves every award necessary for this performance. Chastain’s depth in acting seems to be the marina’s trench. The complicated and complex characters she continues to create prove that as Aaron Sorkin said in his Post Q&A: 

“People can act tough, but you have to come with strength. I always worried either I would be directing her, or she would direct me.”

The presumption here is that Aaron felt that with his inexperience as a director the actors in his production would have walked all over him. He later explained how it became a fluid and very supportive environment based on trust and understanding of his crew’s skills. That in a production shows the qualities of a good director, which I greatly appreciate. There were some novice mistakes to be noticed, such as the use of green screen and the obvious cgi moments that are unnecessary. But at the same time I don’t think Jessica Chastain can skate like an olympian athlete. That’s fine, but at least take effort to try to skate on the ice at more than walking pace, this coming from a former athlete. Yes, it’s for safety reasons, but Tom Cruise regularly jumps off buildings, but he’s also crazy and not in this movie. 

But what exactly is this strength Aaron is talking about? Jessica Chastain has an inner strength that is determination and skill. It isn’t the type of strength that one would normally see, it’s a feeling of empowerment and the knowledge of people as people. With the additive of Molly Bloom, the wrapping and trappings of Chastain’s greatest skills start to weave together into a tapestry that is Molly’s Game.  This is only complimented perfectly with Idris Alba, his lawyer only rarely takes the screen as he is mainly apart of the 48 hour timeline underlining the whole film. This subtle form of storytelling lets Idris capture the audience along with Jessica, allowing the magnetism of both actors create a vortex of tension.  All the while he reflects the relationship that Molly had with her father but in the positive and reinforced view that is love, with the lawyer and his daughter. 

Most of the film is done on the whim of a first time director, Sorkin finds a way to make the cinematography play the underline fiddle to better benefit his dialogue. As I stated before hand, this is the lifeblood of the movie, he even knows that the background as a writer only helps tell the story more. During his talkback, he gives funny stories, and ones on how the film was created, the most important being how Molly Bloom herself showed him how cunning, and clever anyone could ever be. But also show how the protective nature of someones’ life is also attached to their desire of self, and Molly takes it in stride. This may sound odd, as the film plays out in a self-destructive manner, but I felt this idea became real in how Molly saw herself. But also her failures that left her stranded in a cycle of “what now”s for well over 12 years of her life. 

 

 
 

The Zookeeper's Wife

 
 

Directed by: Niki Caro

Based on: The Zookeeper’s Wife; by Diane Ackerman

Written by: Angela Workman

Production Companies: Focus Features, Scion Films; Electric City Entertainment; Tollin Productions; Rowe/Miller Productions

Review by: Samantha Koch

From beginning to end of this film there is one thing that I found very intriguing, the grace and majesty of this film doesn’t correlate to the ugly scenario regarding the people of an even worse tragedy. It is the art as a whole, Chastain’s performance being the concrete foundation to explore a little known story of the average life within a not so average war. Throughout the film most would believe it to be about the animals, instead it is the juxtaposition of how the animals themselves, are being portrayed through the Jewish community in Warsaw. Early on the film introduces the aspect that the Nazi’s and the community who would look the other way saw a people as simply the “other”, i.e. The animals. The one sticking point that can make even the most educated and sound human being to shy away, would simply be that it looks to glaze over the tragedy that happened in Poland. Instead it does it in the gaze of the woman, the wife, the mother, the person. Chastain tries and succeeds to show the lengths that Antonina went through to not only save her family as well as her friends. When moving into the later aspects of the film it shows the strain of having to continually preserve lives as well as the sanctity of herself as a strong polish woman and the love she has for her husband. 

The cons: A film like this must live up to a slew of prominent films that have come before, with equally as powerful characters (ie. Schindler’s List, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Pianist, and Shoah), however the ‘must’ comes from the perspective of the masculine agenda surrounding war, struggle, and grief. It is easy to lose Antonina within the moment, but that is simply due to how she herself as the character tried to make her as unassuming as possible. The major flaw of the film actually has nothing to due with the film itself, it has everything to do with it’s poster. Reflecting on the poster are the animals, and the faces, when primarily all the animals are gone within the first Act. The opening title sequence would have been a more impactful and ingenious way to capitalize Niki Caro’s work and Chastain’s character. The marketing could have been stronger by choosing this to fully allow the audience to be intrigued. 

The Pros: Jessica Chastain is beyond herself in every role, by exemplifying Antonina she loses herself in each character giving them the life and story that the audience deserves. On top of this you have Niki Caro’s subtle directing to help you along a flow of scenes that ranges emotionally, and with a gaze that is primarily feminine in a masculine world. In one scene that exemplifies the fluidity of Caro’s directing, when ash is falling from the sky Chastain’ character stands in it both confused and bewildered at the sight. Only when the audience and character have fully recovered from the sight, Caro has Chastain verbally confirm that the ghetto was burning instead of other holocaust films which brutally assault the audience with the news. This style that Caro gives, amplifies the situation that is happening, but also shows a grave situation that normal people, such as Antonina, were trying to comprehend. 

Overall: The movie is very enjoyable, it has a very serious context that brings forth a conflict that is shown in a way that is both new, yet also the unspoken. Letting a unknown story prevail into the spotlight through a lens that is always overlooked and underrated that Caro and Chastain help shine light on in an elegant manner. Which shows that the feminine perspective is just as important within the serious subjects of historical films.

Entertainment: 7/10

Film Lovers: 7/10

 

 
 

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice

BatmanVSupermanTitle.jpg
 
 

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Written by: Chris Terrio and David S Goyer

Production Companies: Warner Bros. Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual Films

Review by: Samantha Koch

So here is the deal with this movie, currently it is still considered one of the worst superhero films by a lot of superhero fans. Some may disagree (such as myself) and some may agree, but this review is strictly about the movie. This Review does know about Marvel, however the importance is strictly for context only. While the review also knows about the movies that are within its’ known universe such as Man of Steel.

Now when you watch this movie the first thing that comes to mind is that the PR for the film has had a significantly bad rap sheet. Ben Affleck being Batman truly peeved off a lot of people. This caused an over-pour of negative publicity that the marketing team, and the trailer, couldn’t recover from which already gave the movie a certified rotten core. Essentially it was a dead man walking even though it did make over 800 million world wide.

 Within the first opening shots however the audience is given truly a taste of what Zack Snyder knows best. Literally within 1 minute and 11 seconds you have a very artistic moment encapsulate an entire popular culture reference normally reserved for a feature length film. Using the framing he did Snyder gives what a child would remember of a situation, but also the things that are most important versus what most would expect to see. Further into the film the same can be said about how Lex Luthor is portrayed. Jesse Eisenberg gives a performance of Lex Luthor that is both extraordinary and down right terrifying. The quirks that Lex Luthor normally is seen with are the older, balder, version of the main Superman Villian that the comic book world knows. Giving audiences a break from the older Luthor and this newer, younger, yet disturbed Luthor; Snyder gave Batman v. Superman a life of its’ own. Using the older, grittier batman that resonates with “The Dark Knight” of comic book lore, and the Superman of “Death of Superman”. However by butchering the world together, Batman v. Superman gets a harder acceptance from the comic book audience, while it does give it a different tone from Nolan, and it’s predecessors before Man of Steel. This does nothing to fix the problem that Snyder ran into later on in the film with its’ corny moments, and the overshadowing of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Especially the dream sequence which could have been done away with all together as it had no real connection to the plot other than to give Affleck’s Batman motive. With nearly 75 years of ideas at Warner Bros’ disposal, it is seen simply as a waste to use something such as that moment in a film that didn’t need it. 

The Cons: Length. Now this is the Ultimate Edition, a whopping 3 hours long it could possibly become a snoozer by the end if not done properly. Normally that is what we would want to believe. Thankfully unlike Man of Steel’s pacing snafu, the 3 hour edition adds content that further explains the vague world that Snyder gives the audience. With the addition of the first big screen appearance of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who will be getting her own film later this year (2017), all the supers seem tertiary to the big brothers of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. The biggest con, both as a negative and as the word we usually associate it with “con man” would have to be Marvel. Having saturated the market before DC could get its’ universe off the ground; Batman v. Superman is expected to be the Avengers’ of DC, while still being relatively early into the DC universe. Even when Justice League is already in works at Warner Bros at the time the movie came out in theaters, that news did nothing to sway audiences. The PR nightmare that is internet fanboys descended on the movie that it could never recover from. Sadly Warner Bros. tucked its’ tail and ignored a very edgy way to take on one of the biggest showdowns in comic book history. 

The Pros: Zack Freaking Snyder. This entire cinematic universe thrives on one man and his vision of amovie franchise starting withMan of Steel. That movie tried so hard to be different from the “norm” superhero movies which Marvel was churning out at the time. Safe to say that Zack Snyder did just the opposite with Man of Steel that, including Batman v. Superman; audiences got to look at a new franchise rather than have the weight of Disney’s money machine breathing down their neck. Snyder uses techniques and shots that are both beautiful and artistic that normally you would never see within this genre. For Example the procession of Superman he uses simple closeups of bag pipes and slow cuts between two juxtaposing funerals for the same man. Further showing audiences, if they care to even listen, that the DC Universe is much more realistic than that of its’ Marvel counterpart. The gritty reality that audiences loved from the Nolan trilogy Snyder effectively manipulates into this movie to give it the best sense of two battling cities and two superheroes, in a very small world. Simply, Snyder makes big concepts into the smaller details; one that Batman v. Superman encapsulates and allows it to remain alone within its’ soon to be large universe. 

Overall: Heavily, I must say that Batman v. Superman deserves a little credit to the fact it tried to be different, and tried to be a film more than a money grab for DC. With the additive of a good director it simply couldn’t shake the ghost of BatFleck and the evil twin of Marvel. However, to completely write off the movie would be a crime to the effort that Zack Snyder gave to a film that deserves respect for what it accomplished for how much flack it was given.

Entertainment: 8/10

Film Lover: 5/10