Tag Archives: Christina Hendricks

The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Review

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The Strangers Prey at Night

Time: 85 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & horror
Cast:
Bailee Madison as Kinsey
Lewis Pullman as Luke
Christina Hendricks as Cindy
Martin Henderson as Mike
Damian Maffei as Man in the Mask
Director: Johannes Roberts

A family’s road trip takes a dangerous turn when they arrive at a secluded mobile home park to stay with some relatives and find it mysteriously deserted. Under the cover of darkness, three masked psychopaths pay them a visit to test the family’s every limit as they struggle to survive.

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The Strangers originally released back in 2008 and became something of a horror classic, especially when it comes to home invasion movies. However, I was one of the rare people who didn’t think it was very good. Strangely it ended up getting a sequel 10 years later, and while I heard some mixed things about it, it gained something of a cult following. I decided to check it out despite my scepticism, especially since some people have said that it was distinctly different to the first movie. I’m glad to say that I enjoyed it, way more than I was expecting.

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First thing to note going in this is that its not essential to have watched the first Strangers movie beforehand. The only similarity between the two movies other than the title is that the killers wear the same masks and have the same names. The approach to the movie is also different, which extends to its style. Whereas the original Strangers was going for a realistic home invasion, Prey at Night is a 70s and 80s slasher inspired horror film. I never felt that the first Strangers movie really worked with its attempt at realism, but I think Prey at Night worked much better for me. I thought the first half an hour was a little bland and underwhelming to begin with. During this segment it tries to make you care for the characters by focusing on a family with some problems. While it doesn’t feel lazily tacked on, it is cliched and is almost forgotten about once people start being killed, so it doesn’t seem to matter. From the moment that characters notice that things aren’t right however, that’s when it started to work for me. Its filled with thrills and I had a lot of fun with it, culminating in an intense and bloody third act. Prey at Night is under 90 minutes, and I think that it was the right length for this film. I wouldn’t claim that this film is original by any means. There have been plenty of home invasions, slashers and 70s and 80s inspired horror films, and they stand out more and are better than this film. But for what it is going for, I think Prey at Night succeeds. It takes a lot from other movies, but gets away with it more here since its self-aware and blatantly a homage. As to be expected with this being a slasher movie, there are conveniences and implausibilities which do get a bit annoying. More frustrating are the dumb decisions made by the characters, and while they are almost a staple of slashers (and horror movies in general), the homage excuse can only go so far. There are some movies where the bad decisions are realistic, especially when it comes to characters who are in a state of panic, and so it makes sense. Prey at Night is not one of those cases however.

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Despite the character establishment in the first act, the characters are a bit hollow and shallow. However, the acting does make up for it. Martin Henderson and Christina Hendricks play the parents, and the brother and sister are played by Lewis Pullman and Bailee Madison. These four are believable as a family and they do some good work in spite of the writing.

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The direction from Johannes Roberts is great, it is definitely taking the old-fashioned slashers from the 70s and 80s as inspiration. This is especially seen with the cinematography; with the camera setups and slow zooms from the 70s, and the neon visuals from the 80s. The violence is very brutal and certainly does not hold back. At the same time, the movie manages to be genuinely tense. Even the killers are effectively intimidating here, more so here than the original movie. It definitely helped that they actually fitted in this kind of movie. One scene that I heard about long before I got to actually watching the film involves a pool, its probably the most well known part of the whole movie. Without saying too much about the context, the praise was well deserved. Finally, the soundtrack is great, very synth inspired and again the kind of thing you could imagine being in a John Carpenter movie.

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The Strangers: Prey at Night is not without its faults. The character development is weak, the first act is underwhelming, and it falls into some of the typical failings of slasher movies. However, I found it very fun to watch. The cast are decent and somewhat elevate their roles, its directed well, strong on a technical front, and does well at being a homage to some classic slashers. If you’re looking for more of the same from 2008’s The Strangers, you won’t get it with Prey at Night. But if you like those classic 70s and 80s slashers, I think it is well worth a watch.

Toy Story 4 (2019) Review

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Tom Hanks as Woody
Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear
Annie Potts as Bo Peep
Tony Hale as Forky
Keegan-Michael Key as Ducky
Jordan Peele as Bunny
Madeleine McGraw as Bonnie
Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby
Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom
Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples
Jay Hernandez as Bonnie’s dad
Lori Alan as Bonnie’s mom
Joan Cusack as Jessie
Director: Josh Cooley

Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and a new toy named Forky. The adventurous journey turns into an unexpected reunion as Woody’s slight detour leads him to his long-lost friend Bo Peep. As Woody and Bo discuss the old days, they soon start to realize that they’re worlds apart when it comes to what they want from life as a toy.

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Toy Story 4 was a movie I think everyone wasn’t sure how to feel about when it was announced years ago. 9 years ago, we had a perfect conclusion to the series and so it’s difficult to think of a way it could’ve possibly been ended any better. It didn’t help that everything from the trailer just looked like a generic, random and pointless adventure with the familiar characters. So outside of the positive reviews, I wasn’t expecting much going into the movie. To my surprise however, they actually managed to pull it off.

From the trailer Toy Story 4 just looked like a simple adventure, and it is that but it’s pretty entertaining. It doesn’t have a scene even coming close to the incinerator scene in 3 in terms of intensity or emotion. 4 overall feels more like a quieter epilogue taking place after the large scale and epic third act with 3. It has pretty much all that you’d expect from a Toy Story movie, it’s genuinely funny and emotional, and once again works for both children and adults, while not dumbing things down for kids at all. It even has some parts that adults will only pick up, both in terms of story and comedy. They even somehow managed to sneak in a music cue reference to The Shining. It also has a surprisingly fitting end, even more so than Toy Story 3. There’s always ways of bringing back movies for the series, but the way it ends makes it feel like it is final, and it I can’t think of a better way of the series to end.

Much of the main toys that we are familiar with are sidelined, only Woody and Buzz get substantial amounts of screentime. Woody (Tom Hanks) as a character is one of the best parts of each of the Toy Story movies and the 4th movie is no exception. It really focuses on him being sort of a father figure to the character of Forky, and it really shows how far he’s come since the first movie. I’m not exactly on board with what they did with Buzz (Tim Allen) in this movie. He became much less smart, and it wouldn’t be so bad if it was after the first Toy Story, but Toy Story 2 and 3 have established him as a smart leader (even in the first film when he believe he was a space ranger he was smarter than he was here). So it was a step backward for him as a character when he just really didn’t know what he was doing a lot of the time. Bo Peep (Annie Potts) in Toy Story 1 and 2 was just sort of there at the beginning and end of the movies and didn’t get to do anything, in 3 she was completely absent. However in 4, she plays a major role and gets far more to do here. Other than those 3 characters, the newer characters are highlighted more as well. Tony Hale plays Forky, the movie completely surrounds him. In seeing the trailers, I really feel like I wouldn’t like him at all, he seemed like he could’ve been easily annoying. However he surprisingly worked really well, and was certainly something fresh, we’ve seen new toys introduced but not one that was just created. I will say though that it feels like he’s reduced to a plot device in the second half of the movie. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele play a couple of plushies and their great comedic duo extends to animation form as well, they were among the funniest characters of the movie. Keanu Reeves voices Duke Caboom, a Canadian stunt driver toy and is about as great as you’d expect it to be. Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby who plays the closest thing to a villain in this movie, and some things happen with her character that you might not initially expect.

With every Toy Story movie, the quality of the animation increases immensely, and 4 is no exception. As an example, you might remember from Toy Story 3 that there was a flashback scene of Lotso that involved the rain, it looked incredibly realistic. Toy Story 4 opens with scene in the rain, and it looks borderline photorealistic. It’s an absolutely stunning looking movie from beginning to end. A lot of the familiar music heard in the series also reappear here, once again done by Randy Newman.

Toy Story 4 isn’t among the best in the series but it’s still surprisingly good and works as a final conclusion. Everything from the characters (for the most part), the animation, to the writing, the comedy and more is here. If you liked the other Toy Story movies, you should definitely check it out, even if you’re sceptical about it.

Pottersville (2017) Review

Time: 84 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Michael Shannon as Maynard Greiger
Judy Greer as Parker
Ron Perlman as Sheriff Jack
Thomas Lennon as Brock Masterson
Christina Hendricks as Connie Greiger
Ian McShane as Bart
Director: Seth Henrikson

Maynard (Michael Shannon) is a beloved local businessman who is mistaken for the legendary Bigfoot during an inebriated romp through town in a makeshift gorilla costume. The sightings set off an international Bigfoot media spectacle and a windfall of tourism dollars for a simple American town hit by hard times.

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I saw Pottersville out of morbid curiosity when it came onto a Netflix. It seemed to be a movie that would never ever exist, like a Saturday Night Live skit or one of those fake trailers at the beginning of Tropic Thunder with a cast including Michael Shannon and Ron Perlman in a movie about Bigfoot which happens to be a light hearted comedic film set around Christmas time. Everything from the posters to the trailer seemed completely fake, but it turns out it is real, someone really made this movie. Having seen it, I have to say that it really caught me off guard by how much I had fun with it. Not that it’s a good movie, it’s far from that. But it was such a weird movie to watch and had such bizarre moments that I couldn’t help but enjoy the randomness.

All the plot synopsises may say that Pottersville is about Michael Shannon getting drunk, dressing up like a sasquatch and the town the next morning believes that Bigfoot is a thing. But what they don’t tell you is that in this movie, Michael Shannon gets drunk and dresses up because he found out that his wife played by Christina Hendricks is having an affair with Ron Perlman and they are both furries. And they are in a club of furries in the town. So that’s pretty much the plot. I found myself finding unintentional funny moments more hilarious than the intentionally funny moments. However, to be honest, I’m wondering whether the ‘unintentionally funny’ moments was actually meant to be funny. When you see Ron Perlman say how he’s a furry and how he’s proud of it, it makes you wonder how self aware the people working on the movie were. It’s not like a studio movie, and at times it feels like there was some actual passion put into it, so I honestly can’t tell. Whatever the case, it is rather entertaining. I won’t go into too much of the random moments for your benefit if you choose to watch it. Plotwise this movie isn’t very interesting, outside of some random aspects it’s a fairly generic ‘Christmas movie’ (even though this movie doesn’t really have much to do with Christmas). There are parts, especially in the middle of the movie, where it isn’t very entertaining and it feels like a basic generic family movie, so it’s not consistently entertaining. But looking back on the overall film, I just have this really positive feeling towards it.

This movie has an weirdly big cast, with big names like Michael Shannon, Judy Greer, Ian McShane, Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks all part of it. As you can probably tell, they don’t do their finest work here, though they aren’t really that bad and are trying to a degree and at the same time they know what movie they are in. Out of all of the main cast I’d say that Christina Hendricks really doesn’t get to do much here, she’s more wasted than the others (not that she’s missing out on much). The standout here is Michael Shannon, because despite him being known for playing crazed, insane, and villainous characters, here he plays a good guy, and it’s weird, adorable or hilarious (or all three). Shannon doesn’t appear to be phoning it in and is trying to an extent. His involvement with the movie just made it more enjoyable.

At times the direction by Seth Henrikson is okay, at other times it is incredibly basic and straight to DVD. There’s nothing to really say about it, the direction is incredibly average but the majority of it isn’t particularly terrible by any means.

I wouldn’t call Pottersville a good movie but I’m questioning myself when I’m calling it a bad movie. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the movie, because I did. It’s such a bizarre movie, made more bizarre by the bizarre plot, the bizarre choices and the bizarre amount of talent involved. It’s not completely unintentionally hilarious, it’s not quite the 2010’s equivalent of The Room, because some elements are okay (or generic) enough instead of being a complete disaster. But I still had a fun time when I watched it ironically. If you are morbidly curious in it, give it a watch when you can, but it might be a good idea to know what you’re in for beforehand.

Drive (2011)

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Drive

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Director: Nicholas Winding-Refn
Cast:
Ryan Gosling as The Driver
Carey Mulligan as Irene
Bryan Cranston as Shannon
Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose
Oscar Isaac as Standard
Christina Hendricks as Blanche
Ron Perlman as Nino

A mysterious driver (Ryan Gosling) works as a garage mechanic, a Hollywood stuntman and a getaway driver. He helps his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), whose husband is in prison and her son Benicio and he falls in love with her. Later on Standard (Oscar Isaac), Irene’s husband is released from prison but owes people some money. The driver decides to help him out by being the getaway driver to a heist but problems occur. This is based on the novel of the same name by James Sallis.

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Drive is one of the best directed films I’ve ever seen; it has some of the best cinematography, good performances and an engaging story. Although it will be polarizing to some people and not for everyone, for me, it is a masterpiece and is one of the most memorable movies I have ever seen.

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Drive is one of those movies that you have to be careful of what you expect; on the surface it looks like The Transporter but instead of having Jason Statham in the lead role, it’s Ryan Gosling; this is not like that. Also, don’t watch the trailer; it misrepresents what the movie is like, as well as spoiling a lot the plot. Despite the film being called ‘Drive’ there aren’t as many car scenes as you’d think, when they are there however, they are some of the best a film can have; the opening scene is a good example of this. This movie’s pacing does take its time, especially the first half after the intro. The film has a lot of themes which can lead to it being analyse-worthy; there are also some symbolism, for example with the scorpion on the back of Gosling’s jacket is often related with the story of the frog and the scorpion. The whole movie for me interested me from start to finish.

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Ryan Gosling was superb in this role; he has a very subtle performance which works best for his character. His character is mysterious and doesn’t speak that much in this movie. This is one of those performances where he is able to emote what the character is feeling even with just his eyes. Carey Mulligan is also really good in this movie and shares good chemistry with Gosling. The supporting cast was also really good like Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks who are also great. Albert Brooks is particularly good, presenting a villainous side of him that we really haven’t really seen before.

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This movie looks beautiful; the cinematography here is one of the best I’ve seen, I haven’t seen the city of L.A. filmed this well since Collateral. There aren’t many scenes of action but when they are, they are well filmed and are very tense. Also worth noting are the short bursts of sudden graphic bloody violence; it really contrasts in this movie from the calm tone it presented in the first half. It isn’t the Tarantino type of gore; it’s more of a David Cronenberg type of gore. There is also something retro about Drive, whether it would be the neon opening or the unique music. The music is also worth mentioning as it is nothing like I’ve heard before in a movie; it is an electronic pop synthesiser that somehow really fits in with this movie’s tone. The whole movie overall feels very dreamlike with the cinematography and music.

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Drive is a completely different movie than it would seem at first but it’s undeniably a masterpiece. A modern day Bullitt, it succeeds in being incredible to experience and to watch. The film’s slower pace after the intro may turn off some viewers, as well as the graphic violence, so I will say that this movie isn’t for everyone. However this is one of the best directed movies I’ve seen, and has stuck with me since I first saw it.