Tag Archives: Madeleine McGraw

The Black Phone (2022) Review

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The Black Phone

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Horror, violence, domestic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Mason Thames as Finney Blake
Madeleine McGraw as Gwen
Ethan Hawke as The Grabber
Jeremy Davies as Terrence
James Ransone as Max
Director: Scott Derrickson

Finney Shaw is a shy but clever 13-year-old boy who’s being held in a soundproof basement by a sadistic, masked killer. When a disconnected phone on the wall starts to ring, he soon discovers that he can hear the voices of the murderer’s previous victims — and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.

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The Black Phone was one of my most anticipated movies of 2022. It would be director Scott Derrickson’s return to horror for the first time in 8 years, it has a simple but interesting premise, and Ethan Hawke as the main villain. While it could’ve been better, I did enjoy it overall.

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The plot takes its time, but for it was, it is an effectively creepy and dark horror movie. I am aware that The Black Phone is based on a short story, but feels a lot like a Stephen King story; bullies, alcoholic fathers, scary killers with masks, vague and unexplained supernatural elements, the only thing missing was it being set in Maine. The story is very familiar and cliched for a horror movie. Familiarity isn’t necessarily bad, but even if you don’t watch the incredibly revealing trailer, at a certain point, it becomes obvious how the rest of the plot is going to play out. But if you read it as a Stephen King throwback, then it plays a little better. It is fairly entertaining, and it was funnier than I expected it to be. However, the script is a bit of a mixed bag. For its nasty premise, it almost felt a little too tame. It could’ve gone darker when it came to the serial killer stuff, and from Sinister we know that Derrickson is capable of going there. However, my biggest issue is that much of the script felt underdeveloped and was missing something, it needed to expand or elaborate on some things. It juggles multiple different threads, including trauma, kidnappings, and psychic elements, but none of them are really handled that greatly. There are some supernatural elements, from the psychic dreams of the main character’s sister, to the voices of the killer’s victims calling on the black phone in the room that he’s trapped in. Not that I wanted a big info dump on everything, but they needed some level of explanation, at least more than what we got. As it was, the supernatural elements did take away from the real world setting and themes that the movie had previously established. The aspect involving the killer called “The Grabber” is also flawed, mainly with his motive. Initially you think that there is more to the Grabber’s deal than just killing children, given that he keeps his victims down in the basement. However, that’s not the case, and we don’t learn anything about him. So you’re waiting in anticipation for a backstory or reveal that just never comes. The third act doesn’t resolve things that well either; the ending is really abrupt and the last scene is particularly tact on and out of place.

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Ethan Hawke is menacing as The Grabber. Most of the time we don’t see his face, we usually just see him with a mask on. I understand why they used him sparingly, but I think we needed a lot more Hawke screentime. Jeremy Davies is also good in his part. However, it is the kids who stand out the most. Mason Thames is good as the lead child who is captured and is trying to escape, and Madeleine McGraw is especially great as the sister who receives the psychic visions.

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Scott Derrickson once again is very good at directing a movie, especially a horror. I like the visual look of the movie, especially in how it places itself in the 70s. The dream sequences had a distinct look to it, reminiscent to the home tapes from Sinister. I liked them all except one scene involving pinball which was very out of place. The scares aren’t special but were effective enough. They didn’t feel like cliched jump scares and it was refreshing for a recent horror movie to not be so heavy and reliant on jump scares. Finally, the Grabber masks that Hawke wears are very memorable and unique.

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The Black Phone has its problems and considering the potential it had, it was a little disappointing. It felt like it needed a few more drafts to flesh out some of the elements that it introduced. However, Scott Derrickson’s direction is effective, and the performances are great, and they make up for much of the issues.

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.