Vivarium

There’s more hand-me-down genre movie tropes than recognizable human behavior in the new sci-fi/horror hybrid “Vivarium,” about a young couple (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) who is abducted and forced to raise a creepy pod person child. Which wouldn’t be so bad if “Vivarium” wasn’t about the suffocating nature of marriage and parenting in the 21st century.

“Vivarium” isn’t a fun watch, and not just because it’s generally claustrophobic and insistently bleak. Even less fun: watching a pair of talented actors go through the motions of an exhausted scenario that’s based almost entirely on pat assumptions about how pre-fabricated and insidious modern suburbia is. In every dream home a heartache? Yeah, sure.

After visiting a creepy realtor (Jonathan Aris), Tom and Gemma (Eisenberg and Poots) are driven to and then abandoned in Yonder, a very bland vision of an even blander gated community. Every house in Yonder is painted green, every backyard is mowed, and every cloud in the sky resembles a matte painting. Tom and Gemma try to escape, but they cannot find Yonder’s exit. So they settle in at #9 (no street address, presumably because they’re all the same), and periodically receive care packages of flavorless, but neatly vacuum-sealed perishables, like steak, eggs, and coffee. One such box includes a human baby; on the side of the box are these instructions: “Raise the child and be released.”

Time passes differently in Yonder, especially for Tom and Gemma’s unnamed child (Senan Jennings, and then later Eanna Hardwicke). This kid is like one of the Midwich Cuckoos from “Village of the Damned,” only he’s not nearly as interesting: he ages faster than normal, like a dog, and he asks awkward questions that have negligible existential value, like what’s a dog, what’s a dream, etc. Tom and Gemma’s child also screams whenever they don’t go through the motions of parenting him, like when they don’t serve him enough breakfast cereal. He also parrots their conversations back to them, like, oh, any time that Tom and Gemma argue. This kid is creepy, mostly thanks to Jennings and Hardwicke’s performances, but he’s not interesting enough to stick in your mind for long.

The same is basically true of Tom and Gemma’s frustrated coping strategies: he tries to escape by digging a hole in their lawn while she tries to bond with Jennings and Hardwicke’s bad seed. Tom and Gemma’s respective activities define who they are in “Vivarium,” because the plot doesn’t slow down long enough to relate any valuable information beyond expository dialogue. This is especially frustrating whenever Tom and Gemma’s situation tells us how they feel about each other, because those feelings are often as vague as Tom and Gemma’s ersatz son.

Most “Vivarium” scenes are too brisk and un-nuanced to flesh out Yonder’s ostensibly forbidding world of plastic, consumer-friendly domesticity. One moment we’re watching Tom trudge from the breakfast table back to his lawn hole. Then, a few minutes and scenes later, we’re watching him cough up a lung, and pantomime bone-deep weariness. Eisenberg’s a talented performer, but he’s not good enough to suggest soul-sick mania in a few seconds.

Viewers are also left with a number of basic conceptual questions that are never really answered, because Tom and Gemma don’t waste much time talking their way through their problems. Is that lack of introspection supposed to mean something? It’s hard to tell, especially given how unyielding most of the movie’s dialogue is, like when Gemma wonderingly tells her child that “You’re a mystery, and I’m going to solve you.” Equally banal dialogue exchanges, like when she tells him that a dream is “all sorts of moving pictures in your mind, but no one else can see them,” also reminded me of the human sensitivity that’s often lacking from “Vivarium.” I know this movie is supposed to be about what it’s like to be sucked dry by social expectations … but does it have to be so empty, too?

Every moment in “Vivarium” is a frustrating synecdoche, since no single metaphor or image convey an idea that you probably couldn’t think up with yourself during an especially foul mood. Marriage is a prison; parenting is a scam; home ownership is a trap; and you’ll probably die alone, without a substantial legacy. Understood, but who cares? If all you can show me is what you think isn’t genuine, you leave me with zero idea about what you think authenticity looks like, or why I should care. “Vivarium” is the horror movie equivalent of Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans: easy to reproduce, easier to forget.

Available on VOD today, 3/27.

Why I love Joan Crawford’s performance in Daisy Kenyon

Joan Crawford in Daisy Kenyon (1947)

Joan Crawford moves into the light, just barely. Her eyes are boxed in by the surrounding darkness and her face framed by the shoulders of a man. What seems like a single light source reflects on her misty eyes as her late-light lover offers her, on a silver plate, everything she’s been waiting for. “Come live with me and be my love,” he tells her.

Torn between two men; a married big shot lawyer, Dan O’Mara (Dana Andrews) and an emotionally distant recently widowed veteran, Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda). With an established career and her own apartment, it’s not that she needs to find a husband, but it’s something she wants. Daisy Kenyon wants someone to choose her and love her above anyone else. Would she give it all up though, to make the world a better place?

Otto Preminger’s film embodies nearly all the aesthetic trappings of the then-emerging film noir genre. Photographed in high-contrast black-and-white, a rainstorm is ever-threatening, and the locales, stripped of glamour, almost seem real. It’s a film about the morally ambiguous, but unlike most films of the genre, there is no murder or heist, the only crime is an out in the open adultery. The drama, rather than mined from back-alleys and gin-joints, emerges from the problems facing adults in a world that seems to have lost its moral grounding. In a world of lost souls, the choice between right and wrong becomes more difficult to parse; the decision between the individual versus the collective not quite so obvious.

In many ways, Daisy Kenyon feels like an anomaly, a movie that skirts between noir and melodrama – all the while anchored by Crawford’s performance. Not long after the success of Mildred Pierce, she had entered a new stage of her career. While she maintained her elegance, the roles she took on reflected her age; she was older and more established. Out of the shadow of the War, Crawford’s characters suddenly had careers and ambitions. Crucially, Crawford never entirely shed her working-class edge.

Her large eyes and mysterious smile suited characters who sought to maintain a determined facade while revealing their true desires through the smallest gestures. Forty-two at the time she agreed to star in Preminger’s film, Crawford was old by Hollywood’s standards, yet no one was going to tell her she could no longer play ingenues. Women no longer felt as though they were merely wives or mothers, wanted to see their work and desires reflected on the big screen, and Crawford leaned into this growing demand.

A lifetime since it premiered, Daisy Kenyon still resonates in large part due to Crawford. Here is a woman who had it all but yearned to have more; in the process, finding herself torn between her own freedom and a struggle for what is right. Crawford elevates the film’s relatively low stakes by embodying a woman who is willing to give up her small dreams to make the world better, even as that battle for good increasingly seemed like a distant or impossible reality.

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Gal Gadot, Mark Ruffalo, Amy Adams & More Sing John Lennon’s Imagine

Gal Gadot, Mark Ruffalo, Amy Adams & More Sing John Lennon's Imagine

Gal Gadot, Mark Ruffalo, Amy Adams & More Sing John Lennon’s Imagine

You may have already seen Gal Gadot’s Instagram video that the Wonder Woman star posted yesterday featuring a long-list of celebrities singing John Lennon’s 1971 “Imagine,” as the video currently has over 4.5 million views.

Before leading the song, Gadot shared how after six days in self-quarantine, the situation has made her feel “a bit philosophical” about the pandemic. The star says she was inspired by a viral video from Italy featuring a man playing Lennon’s “Imagine” on his trumpet for other people quarantined in their homes to listen to. Gadot felt that “there was something so powerful and pure about this video,” before singing the opening lines of the classic song.

RELATED: Conan to Air Full New Shows Shot Entirely on an iPhone

Other celebrities who sang lines of the song include Mark Ruffalo, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, James Marsden, Sarah Silverman, Kristen Wiig, Sia, Pedro Pascal, Jamie Dornan, Zoe Kravitz, Chris O’Dowd, Leslie Odom Jr., Eddie Benjamin, Ashley Benson, Lynda Carter, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Norah Jones, Kaia Gerber, Cara Delevingne, Annie Mumolo, Labrinth and Maya Rudolph. The video ends with Gadot delivering the final lines of the song.

ComingSoon.net recommends all readers comply with CDC guidelines and remain as isolated as possible during this urgent time.

(Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images)

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Big Time Adolescence

Pete Davidson has only just started playing lead roles in feature films, and he has already achieved a mythic silver screen presence. Later this year, we’ll see him play a version of himself in the Judd Apatow studio project “The King of Staten Island,” and this week we see Davidson as a different type of legend, playing the funny, slightly older screw-up you looked up to when doing your own growing up. You know: the charismatic figure you thought had it all figured out because they partied through the good and the bad. But then you get slightly wiser, and you see what that person doesn’t have in their life, how no-rules coolness is just Monopoly money when the party is over. It’s a common wake-up call experienced by numerous film characters, and writer/director Jason Orley at least makes us laugh and relax before getting to obvious reasons about why you shouldn’t want to be like Davidson’s chaotic slacker Zeke.  

But Mo (Griffin Gluck) doesn’t know this lesson yet, because he’s in high school. Mo looks up to Zeke as if he were the coolest older brother, even though Zeke is the ex-boyfriend of Mo’s sister Kate (Emily Arlook). Mo is a decent kid, relatively plain, and that makes him highly susceptible to influence. As he hangs out with Zeke more and more, spending time with Zeke’s drinking and smoking buddies, Mo unknowingly but willingly mutates himself into Zeke. First it’s when Mo repeats Zeke’s jokes, then it’s when Mo tries out Zeke’s crude strategy in order to get a classmate Sophie (Oona Laurence) to want him back.  

It’s a highly unusual friendship, but the chemistry between Gluck and Davidson help make it seem like a believable anomaly. Davidson’s Zeke is the constantly amused devil on the shoulder of Gluck’s high schooler Mo. And because Mo wants to be popular, Zeke essentially pushes him to sell drugs to the older rich kids at their weird themed parties. It’s just one of many things that Zeke normalizes for him, and in turn sets Mo on a path of destruction.

With his feature debut, Orley presents himself as someone who knows this world of suburban kid basement parties well, but also as a storyteller interested in the dynamics to be found in these two slackers of varying levels. In particular, it becomes apparent that even though Zeke is introduced as a goofy god, Zeke needs Mo just as much to help make himself look cool, too. 

This creates a sizable symbiotic bond that the movie lives and dies on, and “Big Time Adolescence” often hits a strong beat anytime it builds backstory to make it about how their backstories inform their need for each other. But Orley’s script cheats itself out of any major emotional impact. As strong as it may to be start hanging out with them, basically anyone watching this movie would know that this kind of life gets old fast; some urgency is given to the film by tender performances from Jon Cryer (as Mo’s dad) and Oona Laurence (especially when her character Sophie realizes that Mo nonetheless walks and talks like a jerk). Watching Mo learn all of this feels more obvious than usual for a story about arrested development—of course the fast life will lead to loneliness—because Orley doesn’t offer any sense earlier that he’s much interested in shaking things up. 

But Orley has enough jokes and heart in “Big Time Adolescence” to recommend it as a comedy, getting laughs from character work (Davidson’s hyper-active performance especially), little gags in the background, and abrupt cuts that create their own punchline. And the supporting cast stands out too—there’s a liveliness whenever Zeke, Mo, Nick (Machine Gun Kelly), Danny (Omar Brunson) and Holly (Sydney Sweeney) are in Zeke’s pit of an apartment together, even if you don’t want to drink whatever they’re drinking. Orley is also constantly mindful for framing and how characters fit into an image, giving the movie’s hangout scenes a sense of being loose in story, but considered visually. Even when “Big Time Adolescence” starts to become ordinary, it always has a freshness from its on-screen talent, and from the promise of Orley’s directorial eye. 

Ewen Bremner’s sausage and other highlights from the 2020 Glasgow Film Festival

Gutterbee (2019)

There’s a level of warm intimacy at the Glasgow Film Festival that you just don’t get elsewhere. It’s like being on the periphery of a big family meal and watching as everyone mucking in to make certain that everyone has their seat at the table.

It might be something to do with the narrow corridors and the dinky bar space (not a criticism!) at the Glasgow Film Theatre, the festival’s central screening hub. It’s very easy to bump into people you know, or spot programmers and filmmakers milling about ahead of their next Q&A or intro. Seeing the same faces lends the event a subtle sense of comforting cohesion, even as the programme itself covers a wide range of subjects, styles and locales.

My festival began in the most roistering and collegiate style imaginable, at a rep screening of 1994’s Tammy and the T-Rex. The film sees tousle-haired jock Michael, played by Paul Walker, having his brain transplanted into the head of an animatronic T-Rex after he is mauled by a lion in a local safari park.

Denise Richards’ cheergirl Tammy has the hots for Michael, much to the violent chagrin of her psychotic partner Billy (George Pilgrim), who hounds the lovestruck quarterback to the point of near-death. When Tammy quickly realises it’s Michael’s brain powering the T-Rex on a gore-soaked killing spree, she rekindles her love for him and tries her utmost to free him.

The film was made because a South American entrepreneur got hold of an animatronic T-Rex and writer/director Stewart Raffill (the mind behind Mac and Me) wrote something which he could shoot close to his house in Texas. All the splatter scenes were eventually expunged so the film would achieve a PG-13 rating, but no-one went to see it.

Now, the American distributor Vinegar Syndrome, who specialise in artworks of ill repute, have restored and recut the film, bringing it back to its former gory glory. At the screening I attended, many viewers were swigging from wine bottles and bellowing invective at the scene, a noise to be heard amid the rounds of howling laughter. Although its tongue is definitely set firmly in its cheek, this gaudy relic has the potential to become a late night phenomenon á la The Room. Just don’t let James Franco see it!

From tinkering with a botched future classic to building a movie around your obsession with an actress: the title of Chiara Malta’s Simple Women is a nod back to Hal Hartley’s 1992 film Simple Men, which contained within it an iconic dance sequence set to Sonic Youth’s ‘Kool Thing’ and led by Elina Löwensohn’s mysterious epileptic Elina.

When aspiring film director and Simple Men superfan Federica (Jasmine Trinca) bumps into Elina Löwensohn on the streets of Rome, she pitches a biopic of her life to be filmed in her native Bucharest. Löwensohn hesitatingly accepts, and what begins as a chance for the actress to revisit her tumultuous youth, soon turns sour when arguments erupt about who the subject’s life really belongs to. It’s certainly a novel, well-executed rumination on the physical and emotional logistics of filmmaking, even if it does lack for a satisfying conclusion.

Of a more serious political stripe was Amjad Abu Alala’s You Will Die at 20, a slickly-realised Sudanese teen movie with a macabre twist. As a baby, Muzamil is taken to a naming ceremony overseen by the Sheik, and when one of her dervishes faints at a key moment, it is pronounced that the child will – per the title – die at the age of 20. Very quickly, Muzamil’s father ships out, claiming that he’ll find work abroad and send back money, but the reality is that he can’t bear the shame.

The boy his confined to his house, mocked and abused by his peers, and thought to be a dead loss to the community. He memorises the Quran, but nobody really cares. The curse shapes everything about him, even his reticence to forge human connections. The film slowly, carefully rolls towards a denouement in which we are able to witness the results of his two-decade existential breakdown. It’s a little laconic and occasionally a little overwrought, but it’s impressive as a debut feature, both in its visuals which play on the high contrast of sun and shade, and the subtle power of the performances.

Familiarity at film festivals – just as in real life – can breed contempt, so it’s always worth straying a little off the beaten track. Using residual director recognition, or festival awards as a guiding light, can only get you so far. I took a chance on Ulrich Thomsen’s Gutterbee, a tiresomely wacky slice of Southern Gothic which was made worthwhile by Ewen Bremner playing an expat German sausage butcher who is clearly based on Werner Herzog.

The biggest surprise of the festival was Katharine O’Brien’s Lost Transmissions, in which Simon Pegg proves there’s more than one string to his acting bow by playing a man suffering the adverse psychological effects of years heavy drug abuse. It’s a rough-edged film, but everything about it feels ripped from an ostensibly credible reality.

The way O’Brien depicts the cruel bureaucracy of the various treatment centres and the difficulty of seeing a close friend in a new light is both detailed and affecting, with Juno Temple on fine form as the electropop singer-songwriter who falls into caring for this lost soul.

I feel like, in all, I was only able to dip the point of one toe into the deep waters of this festival, but all I can say for certain is that it was very warm (like usual) and I’m certainly hankering wade in a bit deeper next year.

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James Mangold & Robert Rodriguez Rumored for Mandalorian Season 2, Plus Obi-Wan Code Name

James Mangold & Robert Rodriguez Rumored for Mandalorian Season 2, Plus Obi-Wan Code Name

James Mangold & Robert Rodriguez Rumored for Mandalorian Season 2, Plus Obi-Wan Code Name

According to Star Wars News Net, Academy Award nominee James Mangold (Ford v Ferrari, Logan, 3:10 to Yuma) and Robert Rodriguez (Alita: Battle Angel, Machete, Planet Terror) directed parts of The Mandalorian Season 2. The outlet specifies that, along with other unnamed directors, Mangold and Rodriguez have both “directed sequences for an episode” of the second season, and Rodriguez’s contribution was called “great.”

RELATED: ILM Gives Behind-the-Scenes Look at Production of The Mandalorian

Bryce Dallas Howard has also returned to direct The Mandalorian Season 2. Howard directed the first season’s “Chapter 4: Sanctuary” episode. Filming for the new season began last fall and is set to premiere on Disney+ in October. SWNN also shared that “big” guest stars are rumored for Season 2.

Additionally, SWNN revealed that the working title of Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series is Pilgrim. Ewan McGregor will reprise his role as Obi-Wan in the series, which will take place eight years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, where we last saw Obi-Wan delivering the infant Luke Skywalker to his Tatooine homestead. The series will directed by Deborah Chow. Chow, Amini, and McGregor will serve as Executive Producers alongside Kathleen Kennedy, Tracey Seaward (The Queen) and John Swartz (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Jason McGatlin, Lucasfilm’s Executive Vice President Production, will serve as co-producer.

After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universeThe Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.

Purchase Rogue One: A Star Wars Story here.

Pedro Pascal (Kingsman: The Golden Circle) stars as a lone Mandalorian gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy and is joined by Gina Carano (Deadpool) who plays Cara Dune, a former Rebel Shock Trooper, having trouble re-integrating herself into society.; and Carl Weathers as Greef, a man who heads a guild of bounty hunters that hires The Mandalorian for a specific job.

Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Emily Swallow (Supernatural), Carl Weathers (Predator), Omid Abtahi (American Gods), Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) and Nick Nolte (Affliction) also star.

Jon Favreau serves as executive producer and showrunner for the series. Directors for the first season include Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels), who directed the first episode, plus Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), who also provides the voice for bounty hunter IG-88 in the series.

RELATED: Check Out Our Mandalorian Toy Reveal Gallery!

The Mandalorian is executive produced by Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, Kathleen Kennedy and Colin Wilson. Karen Gilchrist serves as co-executive producer.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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Premature

At this year’s Independent Spirit Awards, the co-writer and director of “Premature,” Rashaad Ernesto Green received the appropriately titled “Someone to Watch” award. His film was also nominated for the John Cassavetes Award, which is also appropriate; Green produced this film, financed it and even shot some of it in his own apartment, channeling the spirit of the late filmmaker most associated with the origins of American independent cinema. At times, “Premature” has the same fly-on-the-wall, near-improvisational and casually meandering qualities of a Cassavetes film, though its refreshingly honest and direct depiction of Black sexuality made me think of early Spike Lee or Bill Gunn

I thought of a lot of things as I watched Ayanna (co-writer Zora Howard) and Isaiah (Joshua Boone) navigate the ups and downs of a bittersweet love affair, but this is not to say my mind wandered off. Instead, Green’s direction and the editing by Justin Chan create an atmosphere that, from scene to scene, engages the viewer in conversation with the material. This encourages us to create our own allusions to other movies as well as meditate on our own real-life memories of romance.

“Premature” accomplishes this by being a simple, bare bones love story. While we are occasionally privy to other aspects of the protagonists’ lives, for the most part our focus remains on how their romance unfolds, blossoms and eventually deteriorates. This relationship comes cloaked in a myriad of sensory experiences, from a well-placed jazz song to the textured, tactile cinematography of Laura Valladao, who conducts a master class on how to sensuously light Black skin of all shades. Adding to all this is a strong female voice and perspective that gives an often powerful clarity and depth to Ayanna’s journey toward adulthood and agency.

The city of New York, or more accurately, the village of Harlem, plays an unforgettable role in “Premature.” Its mise en scène runs bone deep in this film’s body: the laundromat where Ayanna and Isaiah have their first real conversation, the park on the Hudson where they share their first kiss, the stoop where Ayanna runs to escape a family argument, the 145th street MTA station where the lovers have their first major fight and the vestibule where their most heartrending moment occurs—these are all supporting characters rather than mere locations. Green frames and presents them as such, making this an additional love poem to his hometown.

Speaking of poetry, Ayanna is constantly jotting down verses in a little notebook she carries. Isaiah is a musician working with powerful singer Dymond (Myha’la Herrold) on some new songs for her club shows. Of course, one can predict that Isaiah and Ayanna will, as a symbolic expression of their love, collaborate on one of Dymond’s tunes. That prediction is validated, though not in the way we expect. In her small role, Herrold acts as kind of an uncredited spokesperson. She not only voices some of the philosophies about music that Isaiah endorses or challenges, she also gives voice to Ayanna’s own personal growth, putting a final gloss on Howard’s excellent, rich characterization. This makes the last scene of the film rather irrelevant, but more on that shortly.

What’s most interesting about Green and Howard’s screenplay is how it challenges our perceptions of the lovers and their actions, both positive and negative. They’re clearly out to elicit a response, not so much in a provocative way but a therapeutic one. No matter how balanced you may try to be as a viewer, you’re going to choose a side predicated on your own experiences (and perhaps even your own gender). And you may feel like the side you’re on is unfair in some moments and justified in others. Like human nature, it gets messy, and there’s even a scene that hints at the kind of heated conversation men and women might have after seeing this picture. Regardless, Boone and Howard’s performances never descend into caricature nor lose their complexities.

So much of what passes for African-American cinema focuses on our trauma. Rather than stitch it into the fabric of the characters’ lives, as reality does, it often sticks out like a sore thumb soliciting sympathy while minimizing all other empathetic avenues. “Premature” is not without its rough moments—there’s talk of a police shooting and a brutally honest examination of unwanted pregnancy and abortion. But these elements exist in the bigger universe of life as orbiting planets rather than as the centered Sun they’d most likely be in other movies. This recalibrates the characters as people who are dealing not just with Black issues but with human issues as well. One of those human items, which I’ll leave you to form your own opinions about, is the age difference between Ayanna and Isaiah. She’s 17, he’s, well, definitely not 17. “He grown!” says one of Ayanna’s supremely entertaining girlfriends.

I don’t know exactly how grown he is, but rather than go there, I’m going to pivot to that aforementioned ending, which I will not spoil. I believe I know why it’s there, but Dymond’s musical number and the party sequence that follows her song resonated so strongly with me that the closing scene felt unnecessary. Call me a grouch, but I think it’s the one time “Premature” dips into romantic movie cliché, barely pulling itself out by striking a note of ambiguity rather than definitely answering the question it poses. I didn’t think that question needed to be asked, but I’m willing to concede I am probably in the minority on that. No matter. This is a good movie, a romantic and richly drawn conversation-starter.

Discover the final horror from one of the genre’s unsung greats

Deadly Manor (1990)

After a prologue showing woods at night, and a car driving away from a pair of bloody, naked bodies lying besides a fallen motorcycle, Deadly Manor (aka Savage Lust) cuts to a truck driving in broad daylight with a giant statue of a burger-bearing ‘Big Boy’ mascot (from the popular American restaurant chain) as its haul.

This is a way for Spanish director José Ramón Larraz not just to offer a foretaste of the murderous perversion to come, but also to establish the setting of his film, like its predecessor Edge of the Axe, in an America that is – in more than one sense – generic. For, derivative and not a little dull, Deadly Manor is horror’s equivalent of fast food, delivering exactly what viewers expect in portion-controlled, bland form.

The film was actually shot in upstate New York, but Larraz might equally, as with his previous features, have filmed all or parts of it in his home country. After all, while the remote and spooky mansion house of the title may boast among its features, as one character absurdly puts it in a recap seemingly designed for the trailer, “a smashed car outside, coffins in the basement, and scalps in the closet,” the one thing it never accommodates is authenticity.

The sense of artifice that quickly settles in is essential to the film’s charm, as are some highly idiosyncratic touches in the over-the-top climax – although elsewhere, the poor acting and tone-deaf, nuance-free dialogue will have you dying for more red sauce just to make it seem less like an insipid, production-line offering.

Mysterious hitchhiker Jack (Clark Tufts) gets off the truck, and thumbs a ride with six passing co-eds who are hoping that he will help guide them to Lake Wapakonope where they intend to go camping. Savvy viewers will recognise two distinct directions that this opening appears to be taking: the hitchhiker hell from the beginning of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the lakeside slashing of Friday the 13th. Before it can get to either of these destinations, Rod (Mark Irish) will turn off the highway looking for a place to rest for the night.

“Do you know where this roads leads to?” asks the group’s most nervous member Helen (Claudia Franjul), articulating the question that viewers may also be asking themselves. In a sense it is obviously leading to the manor house promised by the title, but even when it gets there, the characters keep suggesting established horror templates for a scenario that has not yet revealed its true identity.

So Peter (Jerry Kernion) – who wears a Godzilla T-shirt to signify his status as a horror fan – suggests jokingly that the figure whom only Helen saw at the upstairs window might be “a biohazard mutant zombie”; and when Helen insists that the house is “evil”, Peter again mocks her with an explicit reference to The Exorcist: “Maybe you’ll spit up peas soup and your head’ll turn around!” Peter expressly alludes to Dracula even before they discover the two coffins (marked ‘Amanda’ and ‘Alfred’) in the basement, and later wonders aloud: “What next? Uncle Fester on the patio?”

There are other elements of the manor that fit none of these prescribed genre models: the burnt-out car placed like a monument on a concrete pedestal outside the house; or the interior walls festooned with pictures of the same pretty (but “cruel” looking) woman; or the closet full of human scalps (which barely fazes anyone); or the crack that keeps visibly expanding along a plaster wall; or the masked woman who enters the sexual fantasies of sleeping Tony (Greg Rhodes), or appears at the window.

Amid all the characters’ speculative banter about the precise nature of the film that we are watching, what we do know (and they do not) is that their numbers are being rapidly reduced, slasher-style, by someone armed with a knife. Yet, in a sense, this is ultimately a sort of vampire film too. For its evil is not just a couple of deranged house owners (William Russell, Jennifer Delora), but also faded, decaying beauty vengefully preying upon the vitality of youth.

The problem, though, is in the execution – both literally, in the dreary repetition of the throat slittings, and more metaphorically, in the by-numbers plotting, non-existent characterisation, perfunctory lines and poor performances. An established maestro of mood in films like Symptoms and Vampyres, Larraz certainly squeezes all the gothic atmosphere that he can from his country-house location, and playfully misdirects viewers in a knowing manner with a range of subverted horror tropes. And if you get through the long, meandering middle section, the ending is insane.

Still, the feeling remains that this is far from Larraz’s best work, and that he too, along with the film’s antagonists, is struggling impossibly against aesthetic decline. Deadly Manor was to be Larraz’s final American film. He made just one more feature, the Spanish cop comedy Sevilla Connection, before retiring permanently from filmmaking.

Deadly Manor is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video in a brand new 2K restoration from the original film elements on 17 February.

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Olivia Colman to Lead Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Directorial Debut The Lost Daughter

Olivia Colman to Lead Maggie Gyllenhaal's Directorial Debut The Lost Daughter

Olivia Colman to lead Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut The Lost Daughter

Deadline brings word that Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown) has officially signed on to star in Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal’s upcoming directorial debut film titled The Lost Daughter, which will be an adaptation of author Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name. In addition to Colman, Dakota Johnson (Peanut Butter Falcon), Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose) and Gyllenhaal’s husband, Golden Globe nominee Peter Sarsgaard (The Batman) have also joined the drama film.

“When I finished reading Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter, I felt that something secret and true had been said out loud. And I was both disturbed and comforted by that.” Gyllenhaal said in a statement. “I immediately thought how much more intense the experience would be in a movie theatre, with other people around. And I set to work on this adaptation. I find that the script has attracted other people interested in exploring these secret truths about motherhood, sexuality, femininity, desire. And I’m thrilled to continue my collaboration with such brave and exciting actors and filmmakers.” 

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First published in 2006, Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter novel begins with Leda (Colman), a middle-aged divorcée and a college English professor who goes on a vacation on the Italian coast after her two daughters left her to visit their father in Canada. The story explores the conflicting emotions between a mother’s relationship toward her children.

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Its’ official synopsis reads: “When her daughters leave home, Leda anticipates a period of loneliness and longing. Instead, slightly embarassed by the sensation, she feels liberated, as if her life has become lighter, easier. She decides to take a holiday by the sea, in a small coastal town in southern Italy. But after a few days of calm and quiet, things begin to take a menacing turn. Leda encounters a family whose brash presence proves unsettling, at times even threatening. When a small, seemingly meaningless, event occurs, Leda is overwhelmed by memories of the difficult and unconventional choices she made as a mother and their consequences for herself and her family. The apparently serene tale of a woman’s pleasant rediscovery of herself soon becomes the story of a ferocious confrontation with an unsettled past.”

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The Lost Daughter will be written and directed by Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal, who will also serve as a producer along with Talia Kleinhendler and Osnat Handelsman-Keren through their Pie Films banner. Samuel Marshall Productions’ Charlie Dorfman will also produced the film and finance it alongside Endeavor Content.

(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage via Getty Images)

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6 Benefits of Watching Movies

Some people think that watching movies is a waste of time. This is not true. As a matter of fact, there are numerous benefits of watching movies. It’s fun to sit in the theater with your family or friends to watch your favorite movie and munch on popcorns at the same time. During the two and a half hours, you may feel emotional, happy, scared and excited. This will give you a way to get away from your stressful reality for a few hours. As you get out of the theater, you have no stress or worries. Let’s take a look at a few benefits of watching movies.

1. Awareness

Movies spread awareness especially those that are made around social issues. For instance, films made on social issues like honor killing, caste system, and dowry can raise awareness among the masses. In other words, films can help convey important messages for the betterment of society.

2. Thrilling Experience

You need some excitement but your boss is not willing to give a few days off. What would you do in this situation? Can you wait for your boss’s permission for an endless period of time? Of course, you would look for an alternative. Watching a movie is something that you can do from the comfort of your room once you get back home.

3. Good Laugh

When was the last time you had a good laugh? You don’t remember. Let’s remind you. It was in the movie theater when you were with your friends. Watching movies, especially those that are funny can give you a reason to laugh your heart out. That’s what comedy is all about.

Comedy can lighten your mood, which is good if you want to forget your worries for a while.

4. Inspiration

Good films are a great source of inspiration. For instance, titles that are based on historical figures can give you a deeper insight into the realities of life. They give you a way to see common people transform into heroes that people worship. This gives you the motivation to work hard to become something.

5. Time pass

At times, all of us are home alone. We have nothing to do. After all, we can’t chat on Facebook forever. There is a limit to it. In this situation, watching a movie is a great idea. In fact, this is the best way to pass time.

6. Stress Buster

Are you looking for a way to get rid of your stress? If so, you don’t need to do anything special. All you need to do is head to the movie theater and watch your favorite title with your friends. This is a great way of refreshing your senses.

So, the next someone says that watching movies is a waste of time, just count these benefits in front of them. They won’t taunt you after that. In fact, they will be amazed to know that movies also have a lot of benefits that everyone can avail. Hope this article helps.