Archive for Barbara Hershey

Insidious: Chapter 2

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1986, Carl, a medium, calls his friend Elise to help discover what is haunting Lorraine Lambert’s son, Josh. After hypnotizing Josh, Elise attempts to find the location of Josh’s “friend”, an old woman who appears in photographs of him. After warnings from Josh, she makes her way to his bedroom closet and is scratched on the arm. As a result, Lorraine, Carl and Elise agree that making Josh forget his astral projection abilities is the best thing to do.

Twenty-five years later, Josh’s wife Renai is under questioning by a police detective about the death of Elise. Unsettled, Renai rejoins her family as they relocate to Lorraine’s house, where Renai witnesses strange occurrences. She suspects that Josh is inhabited by the old woman. Josh begins hearing female voices urging him to kill his family in order to stay alive. The next day, Renai sees a woman wearing a white dress sitting in the living room. Following the cries of her baby throughout the house, Renai faces a woman in white and is knocked unconscious. Lorraine visits Elise’s colleagues, Specs and Tucker, to seek an explanation behind the strange events.

They call Carl, who attempts to contact Elise using word-dice. Through the dice, they are told to find answers at the “Our Lady of Angels” hospital. Led to the ICU, Lorraine recounts a story of a patient named Parker Crane, who was admitted to the hospital for trying to castrate himself and eventually committed suicide many years ago. In Parker’s home, they find a secret room with 15 corpses in it. They also find a black wedding gown and veil as well as newspaper clippings about a killer referred to as “The Bride in Black,” who kidnapped and murdered several people while dressed as a woman. It is then revealed that it was not Elise speaking through the dice, but actually Parker’s mother. Meanwhile, Josh’s body begins to slowly deteriorate. He loses several teeth and begins to age physically.

After Renai recovers, Lorraine insists that she, Renai, and the kids get away from Josh. Carl arrives to drug Josh, who reveals that he is possessed by Parker, while Specs and Tucker monitor from outside. Josh incapacitates Carl, Specs, and Tucker and ambushes Lorraine and Renai when they return to the house. He attempts to choke Renai but is knocked over the head by Dalton. Renai and the children escape to the basement. Dalton falls asleep and returns to The Further to rescue his father.

In The Further, the real Josh, Carl and Elise proceed to Parker’s house, where they witness his mother, the woman in white, abusing him as a child. Parker’s mother had raised him as a girl, calling him Marilyn, for reasons unexplained in the film. She is violently abusive whenever he acts as a boy or refers to himself as Parker, the name his “father gave him.” It is further revealed that Parker had killed his female victims at the behest of his mother’s spirit who had also told him that killing Josh’s family would sustain his new body (because it was rejecting his soul). Josh eventually finds the room filled with standing bodies—assumed to be Parker’s victims. Upon finding Parker’s mother, the two engage in a fight. Just as Parker is about to kill Dalton’s physical body and Parker’s mother is about to kill Josh, Elise saves Josh. After the three escape, they meet Dalton, who assists Carl and Josh to return to the living world. Josh and Dalton wake up as themselves, and their memories of their astral projection abilities are forgotten through a process of hypnosis.

Specs and Tucker proceed to go to a family whose daughter, Allison, is in an unexplained coma. Unbeknownst to them, Elise enters the home and approaches Allison. She senses a demonic presence behind the girl and looks on in horror

REVIEW:

Horror films today just don’t resonate with audiences unless they are either torture porn or they do something different. Most of the horror flicks I have come across recently seems to delve into other versions of evil, such as the dubykk. With that being said, sometimes all it takes is a creepy atmosphere, possession, and alternate dimensions to provide a good scare. At least that it what Insidious: Chapter 2 is hoping will work. The questions is…does it?

What is this about?

Time has passed for Renai and Josh Lambert, but they are still haunted by the evil spirits that almost stole the body of their son, Dalton. While Renai tries to accept her son’s paranormal abilities, Josh must confront his own horrifying childhood.

What did I like?

Continuation. I won’t beat around the bush. I vaguely remember Insidious, but that isn’t a problem, because early on in the film, as Rose Byrne’s character is being interrogated, we get a brief recap of past events. Considering how it has been a couple of years since the last film, this was a very smart thing to do. Also, picking up the story where it left off was a masterful stroke of genius. This truly is the next chapter in what seems to be a fledgling franchise.

Vibe. There is a sinister vibe going on throughout the film. It isn’t inherently scary, per se, but you feel the creepiness factor amped up. Probably the best comparison I can give is walking into a haunted house at a carnival/fair. You know something is going to happen, it may even be super cheesy, but it is the knowledge that something is going to go down that changes the atmosphere. The film does a great job of keeping that creepy atmosphere throughout the picture.

Development. This is a personal preference, but for a character in horror to be truly effective, either as the protagonist or antagonist, they must have some sort of character development. This includes having a mysterious backstory. With that said, I felt that the development of the new characters was mostly done extremely well, especially with the new antagonist. That guy’s story will…well, let me not say. You just have to see it to believe it…and hope you don’t end up emotionally scarred for life.

What didn’t I like?

Time is relative. I warn you now, this film skips around in time a bit. Sometimes that can work for a film, a la Pulp Fiction. Most of the time, though, it fails to do anything but confuse the audience. I get that the scenes in the past were meant to help us get a better understanding of who these people are and how everything ties together, but a couple of flashbacks would have been just fine. There was no need to randomly skip back and forth.

Better when he’s creepy. In the last film, the oldest kid, Dalton (you may recognize him from Iron Man 3) was super creepy because of his possession. This go ’round he seems to be fairly normal. When I say normal, I mean boring. There is nothing special about the kid for most of the film, other than he risks his life to go in and save his dad with a tin can telephone. Personally, I preferred him when he was the creepy kid.

You ain’t got no job! I was thinking about this the other day. In films and TV shows of this nature, both parents seem to have the means to buy a fairly big, nice house, but they don’t ever go to work. WTF?!? What kind of drugs are they selling on the side? Seriously, though, I have a theory that perhaps these people wouldn’t be so haunted in they went to a regular 9-5 job. You’d be surprised what wonders getting out of the house will do for you!

So, what did I ultimately think of Insidious: Chapter 2? Well, it has moments that are genuinely creepy, including a guy who was forced to dress as a girl growing up which scarred him for life (and death), an alternate dimension devoid of life and light, etc. A couple of comic relief guys make a valiant attempt to lighten things up, but it just doesn’t work, sadly. I felt that Rose Byrne could have had more to do, but I guess the fact that she doesn’t die is a victory in itself, seeing as this is a horror flick. All in all, this is decent, but not spectacular. By tomorrow morning, chances are I won’t remember anything about this flick, other than the fact that I saw it. Do I recommend it? If you’re into the horror genre, sure, but I fear that even you will be disappointed in the average-ness of this picture.

3 out of 5 stars

Splitting Heirs

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie centres on the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Bournemouth (England), upon which misfortune has befallen throughout history, leading it to believe itself cursed. The most recent heir, Thomas Henry Butterfly Rainbow Peace, was left in a restaurant as an infant in the 1960s, by the time his parents remembered him, he had disappeared. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, Tommy Patel (Eric Idle) has grown up in an Asian/Indian family in Southall, never doubting his ethnicity despite being taller than anyone else in the house, fair-haired, blue-eyed, light-skinned – and not liking curry. From the family corner-shop he commutes to the City, where he works for the Bournemouth family’s stockbroking firm, handling multimillion-pound deals.

He is given the job of acting as host to the visiting American representative of the firm, Henry Bullock (Rick Moranis), who turns out to be the son of the head of the firm, the present Duke; they become friends, and the friendship survives Henry’s becoming the new Duke when his father dies. Circumstantial evidence shows that the true Bournemouth heir is actually Tommy, we see a series of family portraits each of which captures something of Tommy’s facial characteristics, and his Indian mother tells him the story of his adoption. He consults the lawyer who dealt with his adoption, Raoul P. Shadgrind (John Cleese), who says Tommy has no hope of proving his claim, but plants the idea of him obtaining his rightful place in the family by getting Henry out of the way; Shadgrind himself then engineers a variety of ‘accidents’ in the belief that he will share in the spoils as Tommy’s partner. The delightfully complicated love interest comes with Tommy’s and Henry’s (shared at the same time) lover, later the new Duchess (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and their (shared at different times) mother, the dowager Duchess (Barbara Hershey). As befits a classic comedy of errors, the final resolution of everyone’s doubts and misconceptions leaves everyone living “happily ever after – well, for a bit, at least…”

REVIEW:

As a lover of the Monty Python comedy troupe, I’m always looking for other works they’ve done, if for no other reason than to see how they have grown as entertainers since those days. With Splitting Heirs, there is a chance to see Eric Idle (and a little bit of John Cleese) do a little comedic film on their own.

What is this about?

Eric Idle and John Cleese team up in this farce about a lowly bank employee who tries to claim the noble title that is his birthright. Seems there was a switcheroo when Tommy was born, and Tommy was inadvertently substituted with an American baby by his drug-addled mom, the Duchess of Bournemouth. What’s worse, the would-be duke just happens to be Tommy’s best friend, and the Duchess (who’s clueless about Tommy’s real identity) is hot for him!

What did I like?

Brothers. I have to give props to the casting director. Eric Idle and Rick Moranis could pass for long-lost brothers that grew up in different environments. Sure, no one would mistake them for real-life brothers, but remember that this is just a film. The chemistry between the two of them is also something to behold. Sometimes we forget how much of a funnyman Rick Moranis is, I think, since he usually plays lovable losers and sometimes the straight man.

Funny ha ha. As you can imagine when you have a cast of comedians, there are quite a few funny moments. The first half of this film, as well as the scenes with John Cleese are sure to have you rolling on the floor laughing and asking for more. That is not to deny the women in this film, either. Barbara Hershey’s overly slutty character will have you chuckling and/or feeling uncomfortable as you watch her seduce her son.

What didn’t I like?

Forgettable. I hate to say this, but there just is nothing memorable about this film. By the time the credits finish rolling, then you’ll be wondering what happened 10 minutes ago in what you just watched, which is really a shame, but blame the fact that so many similar (and better executed) films have been released that make this seem just plain and humdrum.

Curse. In the opening, we get some info on the Bournemouth curse but, for the rest of the film, it is all but forgotten, save for a couple of mentions in passing. Now, personally, I feel that they could have done more with the curse, both in terms of plot and comedy. Why they didn’t explore it a bit more, is beyond me, other than maybe they didn’t want to turn this into some sort of horror/thriller, perhaps.

Splitting Heirs is a film I selected because I just wanted something funny. Certain people in this house prefer the heavy dramas, so it is nice to get an escape into hilarity. This could have been funnier, yes, but it accomplished what I got it for. Now, having said that, I won’t go so far as to say it is a good film, but there are so many things that it could have done worse and made itself into a bad film. So, do I recommend this? Not really, I found this to be average at best, but it does have some moments. Unfortunately, there are also plot pints that were merely touched on and never expanded upon and that is what hurts this more than anything. So, check this out if you want, but don’t expect greatness.

3 out of 5 stars

Insidious

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert):

During the first scene of the movie, an old ghostly woman is seen lurking in a house corridor while a young Josh is sleeping in his room.

In present day, Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) have recently moved into a new house with their three children. One morning, Renai begins looking through a family photo album with her son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins). He asks why there are no pictures of Josh when he was a child. Renai reasons that he has always been camera shy. Dalton tells Renai he is scared of his new room. One day, Dalton hears something in the attic. When he goes to investigate he sees something off screen that scares him and takes a fall when the attic ladder breaks. The next day Josh goes to wake Dalton, but he does not move. They rush him to the hospital where the doctors say he is in an unexplained coma.

Three months later Dalton is moved home, still in the coma. Disturbing events begin to occur. Renai believes the house is haunted when she begins to see and hear people in the house. She confronts Josh about the events and the family soon moves to another house. In the new house, increasingly violent and supernatural events begin to happen again. Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), contacts a friend, Elise Reiner (Lin Shaye), who deals with paranormal activities. The family, Elise, and her team go into Dalton’s room. There, Elise sees and describes a figure to one of her two assistants, who draws a black figure with a red face and dark hollow eyes.

Elise explains to Renai and Josh of Dalton’s ability to astral project while sleeping, but has wandered too far in the ‘further’ to find his way back in to his physical body. Skeptical at first, Josh later relents when he discovers Dalton had been drawing pictures which resemble the demonic figure Elise described. Elise and Lorraine reveal to the couple that Josh also can astral project, and was terrorized by a terrifying spirit during his childhood. Josh’s mother shows them pictures from Josh’s childhood, revealing a shadowy old woman nearer and nearer to Josh in each picture. Elise suggests that Josh should use his ability to find and help return Dalton’s soul. Josh agrees. Guided by Elise, Josh projects himself into the further and finds and frees his son who is captured and held by the red-faced demon. In search of their physical bodies, Josh and Dalton flee the demon who pursues them. Just before the two awaken, Josh confronts the shadowy old woman who appears to be inside his house, along with several other spirits. Shouting that he is unafraid of her, she retreats into the house. Josh awakens, as does Dalton.

Later, Dalton, Renai, and Lorraine are eating in the kitchen. In another room, while Elise and Josh packed, Elise notices something strange about Josh. She asks him to hand a video tape to her. As he hands it to her, she senses it. She grabs a camera and takes his picture. Suddenly, Josh goes into a rage and strangles Elise to death. Renai hears the noise and runs into the room to find Elise’s body. She calls out to Josh, but receives no answer. She picks up the camera that Elise used from the floor and sees, not a picture of Josh, but the old woman, implying that Josh’s astral body wasn’t able to get to his physical body in time. Instead, the old dead demon woman from his childhood has got there before him and possessed him. Just then, Josh tells Renai he is right behind her and grabs her shoulder. She turns around and the screen cuts to black. It comes back to see a flash of the old woman’s face.

After the credits roll, a short scene shows the old woman blowing out a candle followed by a laugh.

REVIEW:

A friend of mine watched this the other day and it freaked her out big time. Such has been the case with many of the people who have seen this film, so I figured I’d better check it out and see what was the big deal.

To be honest, I wasn’t freaked out all. The Strangers did a better job of freaking me out. That being said, I can see how this movie would freak some people out. First, there is the whole astral projection thing, especially when done by the little boy. Then again, his dad projects some old creepy woman who is just as freaky as the demon his son conjures.

The acting in this flick isn’t half bad, especially for a horror film. The real stars are Dalton and Josh. Seeing as how they are pretty much having to convince the audience they’re more or less possessed for the whole last 30 minutes or so. It takes some real talent to pull that off and make it believable, especially from such a young actor as Ty Simpkins.

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed with  the performance Rose Byrne. I’m not sure if it was her or the way they wrote her character, but I just felt as if something more should have happened, either with or to her. Instead, she is nothing more than the suburbanite mom.

I mentioned the astral projection aspect of this film, but I can’t help but rave about how impressed I was with the paranormal aspect of this picture. No, it isn’t on the level of Paranormal Activity (having not seen any of them, I can’t comment on whether it is better or worse). Often time in films such as this, they would glaze over it, but here it takes center stage.

The comic relief could have been better, and actually felt out of place with the way they sort of shoved them in, but at least they broke up the monotony.

So, what is the final verdict on Insidious? Well, it isn’t as creepy as some make it out to be, but some of you may be scared watching it. Not being a horror fan, I just never really got into it and I think that skewered my opinion. Still, I think this is a pretty good flick that you horror fans will enjoy. Check it out if you get the chance!

4 out of 5 stars

Black Swan

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a young dancer with a prestigious New York City ballet company. She lives with her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), a former dancer, now amateur artist, who stopped her career at 28 when she became pregnant with Nina.

The ballet company is preparing for a production of Swan Lake. The director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), has to cast a new principal dancer as he has forced his present principal dancer, Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder), into retirement. The lead must be able to portray both the innocent, fragile White Swan and her dark, sensual, evil twin, the Black Swan. Nina is selected to compete for the part alongside several other dancers. After her audition goes badly, she visits Thomas to ask him to reconsider and give her the role. He tells her that her rigid technique makes her ideal for the White Swan, but she lacks the passion to dance the Black Swan. He then forces a kiss on her until she bites him. Later, she is chosen for the Swan Queen. An intoxicated Beth angrily confronts Thomas and Nina, and she is later hit by a car and seriously injured in what Thomas believes was a suicide attempt.

Nina begins to witness strange happenings around her. Thomas, meanwhile, becomes increasingly critical of Nina’s “frigid” dancing as the Black Swan and tells her she should stop being such a perfectionist and simply lose herself in the role. She makes the acquaintance of another dancer in the company, Lily (Mila Kunis), whom Thomas described as having the qualities Nina lacks. The relationship between the two dancers cools because of Lily’s indiscretions, but to make up for it, Lily appears at Nina’s door and invites her for a night out. Nina is hesitant at first, but decides to join Lily against her mother’s wishes. While out, Lily offers Nina a capsule of Ecstasy. Upon returning to the apartment, Nina has another fight with her mother. She barricades herself in her room and has sex with Lily. Next morning, Nina wakes up alone and late for rehearsal. When she arrives at the studio, she finds Lily dancing as the Swan Queen. Furious, she confronts Lily and asks her why she did not wake her up in the morning. Lily states that she spent the night with a man whom she met at the club, and it is revealed that Nina imagined the whole sex episode.

Nina’s hallucinations become stronger during rehearsals and at home, which culminates in a violent fight with her mother after which she passes out. Concerned about Nina’s erratic behavior, her mother tries to prevent her from attending the opening performance, but Nina forces her way through and insists that she can dance. Lily and Thomas are puzzled about her appearance since Nina’s mother had called saying she was sick.

The first act goes well until Nina is distracted during a lift by a hallucination and the Prince drops her. Distraught, she returns to her dressing room and finds Lily dressed as the Black Swan. As Lily announces her intention to play the Black Swan, she transforms into Nina herself. Nina and her double struggle, and Nina shoves her double into the mirror shattering it. She grabs a shard of glass and stabs her double in the stomach. Nina sees that the body is Lily’s. She hides the body, returns to the stage, and dances the Black Swan passionately and sensually. Growing black feathers, her arms become black wings as she finally loses herself and is transformed into a black swan. At the end of the act, she receives a standing ovation from the audience. When she leaves the stage, she finds Thomas and the rest of the cast congratulating her on her stunning performance. Nina takes him by surprise and kisses him.

Back in her dressing room preparing for the final act, the dying of the White Swan, there is a knock on her door. She opens it to see Lily, who has come to congratulate her on her performance as the Black Swan. Nina realizes her fight with Lily, just as all the strange visions she had experienced, were hallucinations, but sees the mirror is still shattered. She notices a wound on her body and realizes that she stabbed herself, not Lily. Back on stage, she dances passionately and seamlessly as the White Swan. In the last moments of the ballet, when the White Swan throws herself off a cliff, she spots her mother weeping in the audience. The theater erupts in thunderous applause as Nina falls. As Thomas and the rest of the cast enthusiastically congratulate her on her performance, Lily gasps in horror to see that Nina is bleeding. As Nina lies wounded, the film closes with her staring up at the stage lights, whispering, “I felt it – Perfect – It was perfect,” as the screen fades to white and the audience chants her name.

REVIEW:

In college, I was forced to take a Fine Arts class, during which we spent quite a fair amount of time on Swan Lake. Black Swan isn’t necessarily a film version of that ballet, but the ballet is a major plot point.

This is one of those film that one could not get around hearing about during awards season. Many had it picked to sweep the awards (until they saw The King’s Speech). Now, I’m not one to get too involved with who should or should not have won this or that awards, but in comparison to the film that were nominated, this one and …Speech are nearly neck and neck.

So, what is this highly acclaimed film about? Well, we have this ballet dancer, Nina, who is a hot young dancer trying to get her big break at the ballet company she dances for. The new season brings about the company’s production of Swan Lake, which will feature a new face, according to the director. Eventually, this turns out to be Nina, bit seriously has problem embracing both the white and black swans, unlike her frenemy, Lily, who appears to be primed to take her spot.

As the film progresses, we see the decline in Nina’s mental health, until she finally does something before she takes the stage for the finale of her performance that one would never have guessed she was able to do when we first met her.

The ballet scenes are quite breathtaking. It is no secret that most of us could care less about ballet, but this is one of those films that could make you convert. The director did a great job of filming these scenes and conveying the atmosphere to the audience.

The hallucination scenes are quite interesting, but they do cause the viewer to get a bit confused, if they’re not ready for it.

Natalie Portman as Nina is awesome! No wonder, she was nominated for so many awards.

Mila Kunis made for the perfect foil to Portman, as well as gave us some nice eye candy (just wait until you see the lesbian scene.)

Black Swan is far from the most interesting thing on film, but it has its moments. Great film often fall into this category. If you were to ask me, if I agreed with the awards and accolades this film has received. This year, though, too many folk don’t. Having said that, I did enjoy this film thoroughly, and I trust that you will, as well.

5 out of 5 stars