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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Lucy Boynton

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017)

School sucks. So just go home.

It’s February, which means that it’s cold, snowy, and absolutely miserable outside. The best option for mostly everyone is to stay indoors, keep warm, and just hope that the snow doesn’t come down too much for shoveling the next day. During this deadly cold time, a troubled young woman named Joan (Emma Roberts) for some reason, gets picked up by an older couple (Lauren Holly and James Remar), who take a liking to Joan and need her for something. Joan doesn’t really know what, but she’s happy to be out of the cold for once and appreciates all of the hospitality. Meanwhile, at an isolated prep school, there’s Rose (Lucy Boynton) who has a bit of an issue of her own, and doesn’t know how quite to deal with it, whereas her fellow student Kat (Kiernan Shipka), also is dealing with something going on with her, too. The two students are basically trapped in this school over this winter-break, without barely anyone to talk to or hang with, except for each other, which makes all of the strange happenings around the campus all the more weirder and scary. Somehow, these three stories are connected, but neither knows just yet.

Mad Men‘s over. I know. Shocking.

Oz Perkins clearly likes to take his stories slow. As he did with I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House, Perkins showed that he has a love for taking his time, keeping his camera still, and constantly building and building on atmosphere, as opposed to just throwing all caution to the wind and letting loose. In a way, there’s no problem with that – as long as you’re building on something interesting and compelling, then really, there’s no problem.

And for awhile, it seems like that’s what the Blackcoat’s Daughter (or as it used to be known as, February), is rolling with.

For the most part, Perkins helps his case out by giving us three interesting stories of three relatively different women, without fully divulging into each and everything we need to know about them. They’re dark, quiet, and a little mysterious, which makes them watchable and for us, the audience, curious of where the story may take them; Perkins doesn’t really show too many instances of horror in the first half-hour of this movie, but instead, just building small, ever so brief moments of character and mood that gradually, over time, come together and help the movie out.

And sure, it does aid these characters that the three gals playing them, Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton, are all commanding presences. Roberts seems like she’s got something deeper and darker going on with her; Shipka just seems creepy altogether; and Boynton, while clearly getting the most to work with out of the three, seems like she could have really worked in something that was perhaps more dramatic, and less sinister. But still, all three here are good and keep us watching, even when we’re not quite sure just where everything is going.

Cause when it does get to where it needs to, Blackcoat’s Daughter doesn’t totally disappoint, but it does feel odd.

Cheer up, Scream Queen. (TV references are all that I’ve got)

In a way, a lot of crazy, bad, ugly, and scary stuff happens in the final-act, but there feels like there’s more behind it and we just never get to see it. It’s as if Perkins himself had the material in mind to help us make better sense of all the scary stuff that’s happening, but either didn’t have the time, or budget, to really develop it more. You can sort of tell this is a problem, too, with certain scenes getting really gory and graphic, but other ones, hinting at something more underneath, and we just never get to see that.

The horror itself is still effective, but when it feels like there’s something missing behind allowing it to hit even harder, it’s a bit of a problem. Most horror movies suffer with this, mostly because it seems like they just don’t have any ideas in the first place, but just scares, but it seems like Perkins himself is a step above that. Perhaps, he’s got a few too many ideas to really connect-the-dots between them and his scares, because there’s just something missing here.

One of these days I’ll figure it out. Hopefully.

Consensus: Effective in building on its atmosphere and chills, the Blackcoat’s Daughter shows Perkins is able to conjure up horror, even if he doesn’t have all the nuts and bolts down.

6 / 10

“Yeah, this vacation blows already.”

Photos Courtesy of: Gruesome Magazine

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I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

Houses that creek way too much aren’t good places to stay. Usually.

29-year-old Lily (Ruth Wilson) is going through a little bit of a crisis in her life and is in desperate need of some peace, quiet and, oh yeah, money. She gets all of the above when she takes a job as caretaker and housekeeper of one Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss), a retired horror author who has made some of the genres biggest and best classics. However, Lily has read none of them because she scares easily and doesn’t quite have the patience for stuff like that, nor does she have the patience for some of the weird stuff that begins to happen in this tiny, two-bedroom house. For one, there’s odd noises when there shouldn’t be, but sometimes, that’s to be expected. What really has Lily freaked-out is a growing piece of mold in one part of the house that seems to be getting worse and worse as the days go by and without much of a rhyme, or reason for why it’s happening. Lily just sort of has to depend on her sanity, which also seems to be going away, too, slowly, but surely.

Pam?

Listen up, folks: If you’re going to do a haunted house flick, you really have to step up your game. It is literally one of the oldest genres in the book and it’s been done, time and time again, and only rarely are there certain exceptions where the genre feels like it’s fun, exciting and a little bit fresh.

Unfortunately, I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House is not that movie.

If anything, it’s a solid reminder of why these kinds of movies don’t work as well when it seems like they’re just going through the motions and yes, show their age. And for writer/director Oz Perkins, son of Anthony, you can tell that there’s small, brief glimpses of some originality shining through, but mostly, he relies on the same old quirks and clicks that we’re so used to seeing with these typical kinds of stories.

Weird images appearing in hallways? Check. Weird creaks and sounds coming from certain places in the house? Double check. An old lady who seems to be losing her mind, while also saying weird stuff? Yup. Images that don’t quite make sense? Indeed. There’s these, and trust me, plenty more, which all come when you expect them and have about the same shock-value as a clown at a five year old’s party does – we’ve seen it before, we know what’s going to happen, we know that there’s nothing quite sinister about it all, and yet, we still watch.

Perkins does have a certain bit of style here which, I guess, is interesting, but it also feels meandering. For instance, Perkins takes the material as slow as he possibly can, focusing more on the quiet and sometimes eerie tone, as opposed to getting down to everything about the story and characters. It’s a neat take and does pay-off, what with the crazy amount of dread built-up over time, but it also feels like he’s just padding on more and more time to a movie that could have probably been at least 30 minutes shorty.

Uh, why? Doesn’t one need to see?

Or heck, maybe even 30 minutes altogether.

And it’s a shame, too, because at the center of this very small, very intimate, yet, very plodding horror flick, is a pretty good performance from Ruth Wilson who, actually, deserves a whole lot better than this. When the Affair was good and not silly, Wilson was quite a revelation, balancing a certain deal of sadness and heart for a character who, in much weaker-performer’s hands, would have come off as shrill and boring. Here, as Lily, we don’t get to know a whole lot about her, other than that she’s a bit weird and has a bit of an off-kilter performance.

To me, and probably me alone, this is the most interesting aspect of the movie that, sadly, does not get nearly as developed as it should. We see, through a phone conversation and a conversation she has with Bob Balaban’s character, that she’s got some issues to wade through, is a little off, and definitely needs something like this to help her get through this next stage in her life. So why on Earth don’t we get to see/hear/understand more of that? Why are we getting all of these spooky ghosts who appear in the hallway, or random flashbacks that don’t make any sense in the long-run?

Honestly, it’s because the movie is, when you get down to it, a haunted house flick. It’s an old, tired genre that shows its age and in Perkins case, isn’t getting any younger, hipper, or fresher.

Consensus: Even with a dark atmosphere and a solid performance from Wilson, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House also relies way too heavily on conventions and suffers from a sluggish pace.

5 / 10

Two sides to every story. Oh wait. Not the Affair. Whoops.

Photos Courtesy of: Moviepilot, The Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire

Sing Street (2016)

Start a band. Score chicks. Live your life. Be cool forever.

Growing up in Dublin during the 80’s can be a pretty rough time, especially if you’re Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). Conor doesn’t look as tough, or nearly as masculine as the other boys, so he’s constantly teased and messed with for that reason; his parents are on the brink of divorce; and his older brother (Jack Reynor), when he isn’t spouting witticisms about rock ‘n roll, sits around the house, smoking. Conor doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life, until he meets the vivacious and lovely Raphina (Lucy Boynton), an older, but totally cool chick. While Conor doesn’t know if he has a chance or not, he decides to find some buddies, start a band, and start making music videos, considering that it’s the thing to do around that time when people like Phil Collins and Duran Duran were owning the airwaves with these pieces of art to accompany their music. Of course, he wants Raphina to be in the video, which she’s more than happy with, but also doesn’t want to lead Conor, because after all, she has a boyfriend and he’s very confused about what he wants in life. However, it’s the music that gives him an idea and help him through even the roughest and toughest times in his teen life.

That's how the magic starts. Two dudes, a guitar and some cheesy lyrics about love and heartbreak.

That’s how the magic starts. Two dudes, a guitar and some cheesy lyrics about love and heartbreak.

With Once, it was interesting to see how writer/director John Carney was able to carve-out a musical, out of realistic situations. Budding musicians would meet on the streets, or in stores, sing songs about heartbreak, love, life and all that good stuff, and because the music was so strong, the singers were so good, and the lyrics were so heartfelt, it didn’t matter how cheesy it would be. In the world that Carney makes, you believe it because it is at least based in some form of reality that, yeah, even if people do walk around, singing to one another, it’s still at least somewhat believable, and, believe it or not, lovely to listen to.

With Begin Again, Carney sort of lost himself a bit. While the cast and the music was strong, the movie itself was so sentimental and sappy at times, that I wondered if I was watching a Spielberg flick. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine movie that I much enjoyed listening to afterwards (Adam Levine’s songs were pretty great), but it was placed in such a fictional and almost incredibly unrealistic world that it was sometimes too hard for me to take seriously. The gritty, raw and heartfelt position he took with Once, was somehow lost in the wind, only to have cheesy Hollywood sentimentality take over.

However, with Sing Street, Carney somehow bounces back to the world he once knew and worked with, even if, yes, some things are a tad cheesy and unbelievable.

Most importantly though, you can tell that this is a story that’s close to Carney’s heart and soul. While it’s not known how much of this is autobiographical, you still get the sense that Carney is writing and portraying a time of his life that he looks back on with pleasantness, as well as some sadness. He misses feeling like a young teen who was absolutely willing and capable of taking on the whole world around him, regardless of if anybody wanted to listen to him in the first place.

Also, you get a sense that, through the songs, Carney is really working through all of the genres and styles that showed up and were the bee’s knees during the mid-to-late-80’s. Through Conor, we see him take on new wave, and punk, and soul, and even pop, to where he’s writing awfully catchy songs and coming up with even more inventive and neat music videos, some of which are so funny, entertaining and kitschy, that you can’t believe anybody would be able to make it all up, let alone a bunch of angsty teens.

But still, in the world of John Carney, it somehow works.

But it's okay, 'cause you'll get all the cool girls.

But it’s okay, ’cause you’ll get all the cool babes.

Not only do the songs work and are more than likely to get in your head, they also tell us more and more about this character that go past and beyond just him being sad, or mad, or lonely, or happy. We get a few dream-sequences in which Conor thinks about the life he wishes he had, especially when it comes to music, where everyone loves him, wants to be him, and most importantly, his family is all happy and back together again. However, at the same time, the sad realization of the real world kicks in and it’s sometimes heartbreaking to see his tender soul hurt and ruined, even if you get the general idea that’ll get better for a good-looking, incredibly talented 15-year-old such as himself.

After all, if he continues to write as good as songs as he’s been writing, he’ll be able to do anything he wants.

That’s why, as Conor, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo does a pretty solid job giving us a real, understandable teen who doesn’t always do or say the right things, and yes, may be definitely confused about what he wants with his life, but who isn’t at that age? When you’re 15, the only thing you want is to be heard, understood and respected amongst your peers and taken in as a adult, even if, you know full well that won’t happen. Conor’s the kind of protagonist in a story like this that we can all relate to and enjoy, even when it seems like he doesn’t have the full picture in his head. But that’s okay, because you know what? He’s 15-years-old and he’ll have plenty of time to make up his mind.

As for everybody else, they’re all pretty charming and lovely, too, even in Carney’s world of cuteness. Lucy Boynton is gorgeous, but also kind of sweet as the tortured and sad Raphina; Aidan Gillen plays Conor’s dad who may or may not be a dick, but always says what’s on his mind; and Jack Reynor, in an absolutely scene-stealing role as Conor’s older brother, gives us the kind of heart and soul a movie like this needed. Reynor comes in every so often, smoking weed or tobacco, says whatever’s on his mind and, occasionally, teaching Conor a life lesson that he can learn to live by and make better decisions with. However, the movie doesn’t overdo this character and it’s why, if anything in this movie does feel real, it’s him. He helps Conor become more of a man than anyone, or anything else in this movie, and he’s the kind of character that you could meet in real life, love and want to hang out with, time and time again.

Even if it is Jack Reynor and the dude is probably very busy and doesn’t have time to spend with you.

Consensus: Even if its set in a world of unrealistic proportions, Sing Street is still sweet, earnest, and heartfelt enough that it works as a lively, if immensely entertaining coming-of-ager, with great songs to back it all up.

8 / 10

"Hey, teachers! Leave those kids alone!"

“Hey, teachers! Leave those kids alone!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire