Month: November 2020

Come Play Review: Emotional Depth & Good Shocks Offsets Familiar Parts




Gillian Jacobs as Sarah

John Gallagher Jr. as Marty

Azhy Robertson as Oliver

Winslow Fegley as Bryon

Written and Directed by Jacob Chase

Come Play Review:

“The American version of [insert title here]” can either be the biggest praise or the the harshest critique for a film in any genre, but especially in the horror genre, which has a fanbase that ranges from hungry solely for unique new stories to loving trips down nostalgia lane. With Amblin Partners joined in on the feature, Jacob Chase’s Come Play is certainly a mishmash of parts tapping into the feel of the latter, but thanks to some effective shocks and emotional storytelling, it still proves to be one of the better horror outings of recent years.

The story of Come Play, a feature length adaptation of Chase’s horror short Larry, focuses on Oliver, a lonely young boy who feels different from everyone else. Desperate for a friend, he seeks solace and refuge in his ever-present cell phone and tablet. When a mysterious creature uses Oliver’s devices against him to break into our world, Oliver’s parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) must fight to save their son from the monster beyond the screen.

For those who it wasn’t apparent, the story is a clear borrowing of elements from Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, although there are enough elements in Chase’s film to set itself apart from the 2014 masterpiece, including actually diagnosing its child protagonist with a specific disability instead of just an ambiguous placing on the spectrum and having the father alive and in the story. Granted with Kent’s film, the father’s absence is a key driving force for the story’s thematics, but the inclusion of the father feels much more resonant for the story of young Oliver.

As the story progresses and shows the various parts of Oliver’s life, including his visits to his therapist and troubles at school with other children, it becomes clear Chase has done a lot of research into how his character would move through the world and the struggles he’d face in connecting with both family and peers. This early establishment of a well-rounded and interesting portrayal of Oliver makes the emotional connection all that much easier for audiences as the terror slowly works its way into the story.

Much like Kent’s Babadook or even David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out, Chase does a nice job of taking his time to build the suspense surrounding the malevolent Larry before going a little heavy on the jump scares. Granted, many of the jump scares are very effective and expertly crafted, the writer/director clearly having a grasp on the nature of building the tension in a scene and offering fake-outs before suddenly pulling the rug out from audiences and sending their heart rates spiking.

One of the key ingredients that makes so many of the scares, both jump and atmospheric, so effective is the film’s incredible sound design throughout. While there is an emotional musical score from the always-great Roque Baños present in the film, Chase smartly chooses to keep it either low in the background or keep scenes quiet to keep audiences guessing as to whether something is about to happen or elevate much of the powerful dialogue scenes from the incredible performers Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.’s Sarah and Marty. Like the best films full of jump scares from recent years, Chase’s decision to keep much of the film quieter allows for all of the air to be sucked out of viewers’ lungs as little hints and subtle appearances are on display in scenes of terror, followed by a horrific shock or a gotcha moment that allows the audience to chuckle at the fact they got got.

Come Play may feel like an assortment of pieces from other, better horror films, namely The Babadook, but thanks to some emotional storytelling, effective scares, wonderful performances from its cast and a downright shocker of an ending, it proves to be a plenty entertaining entry into the family horror genre.

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Lily James, Emma Thompson & Shazad Latif to Star in Shekhar Kapur’s New Rom-Com

Lily James, Emma Thompson & Shazad Latif to Star in Shekhar Kapur's New Rom-Com

Lily James, Emma Thompson & Shazad Latif to Star in Shekhar Kapur’s New Rom-Com

Lily James (Yesterday, Cinderella, Darkest Hour), Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Late Night, Saving Mr. Banks), and Shazad Latif (Star Trek: Discovery, Departure, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) are attached to star in Golden Globe-nominated director Shekhar Kapur’s upcoming romance comedy What’s Love Got to Do With It?, according to Deadline. The movie will serve as the first feature project helmed by Kapur since the 2007 Oscar-winning historical drama Elizabeth: The Golden Age, a follow-up to Kapur’s 1998 Oscar-winning movie Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.

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Plot details on the upcoming feature are being kept under wraps, but the outlet shares the project will be a “cross-cultural rom-com” about love and marriage “set between London and South Asia.”

What’s Love Got to Do With It? will be written and produced by Jemima Khan (Impeachment: American Crime Story, The Case Against Adnan Syed). Khan will produce through her Instinct Productions banner, with Nicky Kentish Barnes (About a Boy) also producing alongside Working Title’s Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan.

Studiocanal will fully finance the project and is launching sales at the upcoming virtual American Film Market (AFM). The studio will release in their own territories which includes the UK, France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. Studiocanal’s Ron Halpern and Joe Naftalin will oversee for the company.

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Production on the movie is expected to begin next month.

(Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images for Burberry, Steve Blackburn/Getty Images for RBC & Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage via Getty Images)

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Spell Review: Too Deliberately Paced But Well-Performed Hoodoo Thriller




Omari Hardwick as Marquis T. Woods

Loretta Devine as Eloise

Hannah Gonera as Samsara Woods

Lorraine Burroughs as Veora Woods

Kalifa Burton as Tydon Woods

John Beasley as Earl

Tumisho Masha as Sheriff

Steve Mululu as Lewis

Directed by Mark Tonderai; Written by Kurt Wimmer

Click here to rent or purchase Spell!

Spell Review:

The horror genre has explored a number of cultural subgenres over the years but one of the rarely explored yet thoroughly compelling areas is that of hoodoo, the last notable example being the Kate Hudson-starring disappointment The Skeleton Key, but now we’re getting another high-profile effort with the Omari Hardwick and Loretta Devine-led Spell and while it may suffer from some pacing and logical issues, it proves to be the most effective attempt yet.

While flying to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia, an intense storm causes Marquis (Omari Hardwick) to lose control of the plane carrying him and his family. He awakens wounded, alone and trapped in Ms. Eloise’s (Loretta Devine) attic, who claims she can nurse him back to health with the Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin. Unable to call for help, Marquis desperately tries to outwit and break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon.

The film starts off a little slow, with the characters introduced not really proving to be that compelling, likable or very original, from the teenage son losing interest in sports to the success-hungry dad struggling to be attentive in his family’s lives. Despite this, however, the story establishes a deeper root to the distant nature of Marquis, a past trauma that he’s sought to run from more than embrace and heal from and Hardwick does a great job of tapping into the complex balance of emotions throughout.

Once the plane crashes and Marquis awakes in his rural prison, the tension skyrockets and the story does a phenomenal job of keeping this tension palpable as the audience is left wondering whether Ms. Eloise is truly a good samaritan or is planning something more nefarious, though it may be more obvious than other similar stories such as Misery. The casting of Devine for her first real horror film in 20 years and rare antagonist role was nothing short of divine, as she brings all the warmth needed for audiences to truly enjoy watching the character as well as mask the malice just beneath the surface of her bubbly smile and maternal care.

One of the film’s strongest points is its unique depiction of hoodoo culture, offering just enough backstory on the roots of the folk religion and some of its various traditions to set itself apart from both past representations of the hoodoo and voodoo cultures, namely its central usage of the Boogity figures throughout. More terrifying in concept than a simple voodoo effigy, the production team do a great job at making every figure look incredibly creepy and be used to their full menacing potential.

Despite only running at 90 minutes, the film does suffer a bit of an issue with its pacing as it struggles to find a good balance between a lean pace that delivers all of the thrills at breakneck speeds and a more character-driven chiller. On what feels like too many occasions throughout the film, Marquis appears to be able to escape his situation, especially so early in the film that it begs the question of how he kept taking steps back. The fact he’s able to escape the room he’s held captive in the same day he wakes from surviving the plane crash feels far too soon and far too rushed for the fact we then see him return to his room and plan his next move.

These issues aside, however, Spell still proves to be a fairly well-directed, compellingly tense and culturally unique chiller carried by incredible performances Omari Hardwick and Loretta Devine, establishing itself as arguably the best depiction of hoodoo culture in the horror genre.

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James Bond Star Sean Connery Dead at Age 90

James Bond Star Sean Connery Dead at Age 90

It is with great sadness that must report that Sean Connery has passed away at the age of 90. According to the, the actor, best remembered for his portrayal of James Bond, died peacefully in his sleep in the Bahamas after being, in the words of his son, Jason, “unwell for some time.”

Jason said his father “had many of his family who could be in the Bahamas around him” when he died overnight in Nassau. “We are all working at understanding this huge event as it only happened so recently, even though my dad has been unwell for some time.

“A sad day for all who knew and loved my dad and a sad loss for all people around the world who enjoyed the wonderful gift he had as an actor.”

Per Connery’s publicist, Nancy Seltzer: “There will be a private ceremony followed by a memorial yet to be planned once the virus has ended.”

Sean Connery has 94 acting credits to his name in a career dating back to the early 50s. His big break arrived with Dr. No in 1962 in which the actor stepped into the shoes of James Bond, a role he would play seven times in the films From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds are Forever (1971) and Never Say Never Again (1983).

Connery also starred in blockbuster films such as A Bridge Too Far (1977), Highlander (1986), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), First Knight (1995) and The Rock (1996).

In 1987, he won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Jim Malone in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables.

His final on-screen appearance came with 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He was expected to reprise his role as Professor Henry Jones in the fourth Indiana Jones film but couldn’t shake retirement, stating in 2007: “Retirement is just too damned much fun.”

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