MOVIE REVIEW: The Rental

Rating: R / Runtime: 1 hour and 28 minutes

The shift in technology has made the world more connected but has rendered the concept of privacy obsolete. There is no place on Earth that can remain hidden from the all-seeing eye of a camera, cell phone, drone, or other tools of video surveillance. Forgive the paranoia afflicted prose of these opening sentences but it would be a lie to sugarcoat the truth. Outside of birthday party recollections and vacation memories, the idea of recording can carry a dark undercurrent of sadism when left in the hands of unsavory characters. “Somebody’s Watching Me” is not just a slice of 80s pop music cheese; it’s the spine chilling predicament of four friends embarking on a mini weekend getaway in sunny California. 

Dave Franco’s directorial debut, “The Rental,” sticks a flag in the ever-increasing field of thrillers dealing with the negatives of technology gone awry. What was supposed to be a vacation in the space of a luxurious beachfront house filled with smiles, drug experimentation, and couples bonding closer gets turned sour into a game of survival. Survival not consisting of just life or death but also the ability to keep secrets and deception from reaching the surface. Charlie (Dan Stevens), Michelle (Allison Brie), Mina (Shelia Vand), and Josh (Jeremy White) represent our group under the watchful eye of a mysterious peeping tom who stalks and lurks unknowingly. Unfortunately, only one character (Josh) out of the four subjects has their own personality, fears, and desires fleshed out while the others are simply empty vessels.

Notwithstanding the lack of interesting characters, the story plays out like a kid not knowing their limitations when it comes to eating candy. Franco has a road ahead of him that could lead to a competent career behind the camera but he has some lessons to learn. His handling of the narrative elements is to carry different subplots that could all work as one film on their own; instead, they are jumbled together leading to an illogical cinematic clutter. One subplot provides the stakes of keeping a love affair hidden while the other wrinkle follows the predicament of the homeowner himself that feels untrustworthy. One of these plots could have carried all the way home but this is a case of doing too much when simple would work better. 

Good can be found in the short 88-minute runtime, specifically when the characters are forced out of their cocoon of comfort having to match wits with the unseen villain in new major twists. The main thing that decreases the level of enjoyment is found with character flaws that reek of a lack of common sense. There is nothing worse in a horror film than being treated to a lack of character intelligence. People still not realizing that they can’t commit perfect murders or solve uncomfortable dilemmas by calling for help is laughable in the bad sense of the word. By the end, it is not a shocking conclusion that lies waiting for the characters.

“The Rental” is a horror/thriller mashup that carries the ethos of a decent film but exits the room with a mark of incompletion. 

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Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Hunt

Rating: R / Runtime: 1 hour and 29 minutes

Political satire, when done correctly, can be very effective in showing the volatile and idiotic manner of government, serving as a form of humor that calls attention to itself but does the duty of sparking compelling thoughts in your mind about the state of democracy. Humor is a subjective phenomenon just as the opinions floating in your brain are; the same joke can cause different reactions based on how it vibes with the person’s idea of what’s funny and what’s not. If “The Hunt” is an exercise of satire, then it’s better off labeling itself a spoof film because it plays down its impact with self-referential humor akin to the “Scary Movie” series of the 2000s. Adding nothing to the current political discord between Democrats and Republicans, the blood and guts raining down from the mayhem-infused violence do nothing to cover up the woeful writing and flimsy cheapness of its execution. The fierce performance of Betty Gilpin doesn’t carry the imposing muscles needed to carry this feature out of the dungeons of disappointment,

Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, the two men who lit up last year with the greatness of HBO’s “Watchmen”, stand as the architects of this new thriller. A group of Republican loyalists find themselves fighting for their lives in a location filled with secluded woods and Democrats with an itch for hunting down so-called “Deplorables”. This sadistic game takes a sudden turn when a woman named Crystal (Betty Gilpin) becomes the predator instead of the prey. Laying down a can of you know what, Crystal fights back against the dire onslaught of progressives while uncovering the blueprint for this event labeled as “Manorgate” which has been widely circulated as a theory on online forums and social media accounts. The twisted discourse of favoritism politics wears its mask loud and proud but yet doesn’t do anything noteworthy to warrant all of its controversy.

From the onset, this story immediately comes off as anything other than the butt of its own joke. Some moments engage with dialogue that feels lifted from a comment section underneath the tweet of any political figure or pundit. Terms such as “snowflakes”, “rednecks”, “crisis actors” and disposable monologues are used and represent a lack of cleverness and reek of a style reminiscent of a tone-deaf social media user that wants to sound smart but comes off painfully lacking in awareness. Was the research of this film done by siphoning from the wide and jumbled world of social media apps? The narrative doesn’t know what direction it wants to go, opting for a misshaped “equal opportunity” offender angle that aims to disarm any harsh labels this film may receive from either side of the political arena. Does the film want to make fun of the vast conspiracy theories and stereotypes the parties lob at each other or the right’s fear of a scenario involving the left attacking them draped in some legitimacy? Maybe “The Hunt ” wants to make fun of both sides trying to be the high and mighty winner of an unwinnable dispute, but the film makes it very hard to figure out what the purpose entails. For a misguided and clunky screenplay to come from Lindelof is the most shocking piece to take away from this trainwreck.

Violence is as vicious and full-frontal as the MPAA allows it to be with limbs, guts, heads, and eyeballs being taken down or disintegrated with bullets, blunt objects, and any weapon that can be found usable. On par with a Jason Vorhees gorefest, this is the primal center of human conflict with a slapstick comic book aesthetic. Some of the CGI can be iffy but these passages of mainstream action aspirations do add some jolt and curiosity. Director Craig Zobel’s manner of using so many quick cuts and erroneous angles that leave the audience missing out on the impact of hits and final fatalities is a bummer to watch on the big screen. If there was one thing that could conjure me to give this film a watch recommendation, it would have been the selling point of action sequences. Sadly, that is far from the final results.

Shock and disbelief serve as my final words for this fail of a satire. All of the anticipation and excitement has been for naught because the resulting film is a frustrating disappointment that is baffling by the fact of having writers and actors with trustworthy track records behind the helm. “The Hunt ” will be forgettable once the uproar about its subject matter cools down and what will stand in my memory is how much of a farce it makes of itself trying to lend an opinion to the American political climate.

Rating:


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Call Of The Wild

Rating: PG / Runtime: 1 hour and 40 minutes

“The Call Of The Wild” is the rugged frontiersman cousin that wants to liken itself to the live-action remake of “The Lion King” but without the capability to throw down plenty of coin on photorealistic visuals. Disney’s influence being stitched into the fabric of this film is no surprise given that our director Chris Sanders was the writer behind some of the more widely known Disney cinematic treasures. It is very understandable that most of the production budget went to retaining the services of Harrison Ford but plenty of resources were needed to make this CGI something more than unfinished. Each of the animals shown in the film has the glossy finish of a new car which makes it very distracting to see given they are traversing over many lands filled with snow, dirt, and other environmental elements. The dramatic element of this film is lost and never takes off due to how cartoonishly the animals look and move around. The funny irony is that without this lackluster VFX, this film would be a plain dreadful experience cinematically. This adaption tale leans into family-friendly aspirations, trucking down a distant highway from Jack London’s original adventure novel in more ways than one.

Buck, our leading canine, is taken from the relatively easy-going lifestyle he enjoys in California under the graces of a loving family and thrown into the harsh circumstances of being a sled dog stationed in the Alaskan Yukon during the last vestige of the 19th century. After some time, he gets used to the high-paced activity of mail passage and starts to find a place for himself in this untamed world that celebrates grit and strength. Buck feels crafted from the hands of Zeus given all the superheroic qualities he possesses; they include the ability to jump like Mario the Plumber, the strength of a T-800, capacity to not feel pain, running like the speed of sound, and the wondrous flexibility of an Olympic gymnast. If you are going to have your animals depicted like a Looney Tunes cartoon or reminiscent of Scooby-Doo, then take the animation route and be comfortable in that space.

The story drips itself into so many occasions of forceful and cringe-inducing “tugging at your heartstrings” moments that it’s very easy to smell the cheese emanating from the silver screen. Human characters spend so much time talking to the animals that I was waiting for the moment when one of them would start talking back. One scene involves a lead conductor from the sled team telling Buck that they not only carry mail but also memories, stories, and lives, then you get a slow-motion montage of Buck roaming through a town seeing different people from different walks of life looking at envelopes. It is very formulaic in the different narrative beats that it presents and easily foreseeable how it will resolve itself.

Harrison Ford is an undisputed all-time great having delivered some of the more memorable performances and moments we have seen in cinematic history. As a fan, even I was able to tell that he settled for crumbs taking this role. Never during the whole journey do we understand his characterization or inner pain that lead him to exile himself in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere. We get that he lost his son and that the pain put too much of a strain on his marriage, but that’s it as far as development. He is only good enough to be a narrator, an exposition factoid spewing machine, or to pop up out of nowhere to serve as a deus ex machina for Buck when he deals with mistreatment. The draw of this film will be for people (most likely little children) who want to see weirdly designed and unstoppable forces of animals, but coming on the promise of a Hollywood star like Ford is an unfulfilling and hollow expenditure. As a matter of fact, most of the human characters are just window dressing which works horribly for a live-action but would be more welcomed in the animation realm.

If you want to be a good parent and you can stomach a 100-minute draggy and generic piece of fantasy adventure, then take your children because they will have a ball with these dogs and the excitement of certain action sequences. Otherwise, “The Call Of The Wild” puts all of its cards on the table and draws nothing but blanks in the game of film relevancy.


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

What We Learned This Week: January 20-February 16

LESSON #1: IF YOU WANT TO LAUGH AT A FILM SNOB HISSY FIT, COME SEE THIS— If you think a few of my Feelin’ Film group social media posts about the work myself and others do is a big heap of #firstworldproblems and #whitepeopleproblems, groovy and uptight Californians have me beat. You have to see this and laugh. The Hollywood Reporter headline reads Hollywood Critics’ Groups Squabble Over Who Is a Hollywood Critic.” The story here is the former Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society has recently re-branded into the less-of-a-mouthful Hollywood Critics Association and the Critic’s Choice Association, who run the popular awards show of the same name are upset about confusing or inaccurate representation and potential dual membership. Lawyers are involved and everything. Face, meet palm. Inclusion should be the winner here, not selfishness. This is the kind of tiff and behavior that gives the rest of us critics a bad name. Let this Chicago Indie Critics founder and director guy over here tell you. There is room for two groups. There is room for a dozen groups. This should be “the more the merrier” for access, audience, and enjoyment and not a playground finger-pointing throwdown. Clean it up, Los Angeles, and unbunch your drawers.

LESSON #2: WE NEED MORE GENUINE BLACK STORIES— Folks, I have to open with a huge shout-out to the work of Feelin’ Film’s new “Black Label” podcast to bolster this lesson. The roundtable of Kolby Mac, Erynne Hundley, Caless Davis, and Emmanuel Noisette are two episodes into their presentation run and their conversations about representation, black voices, and overcoming tropes is essential listening. A victory of what they clamor for arrives in theaters this Valentine’s Day weekend in the form of The Photograph.  Starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield, we have a mature and honest ethnic romance free of the forced flaws of baited debates and hammy theatrics too often saddled on this demographic by mismatched voices.  See this movie immediately and give the new podcast a hearty listen. Demand more and we might just get more. We’ve got four vivacious critics doing that here. Join them!

LESSON #3: SAVE A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR THE MOVIE— For the last two years after the Super Bowl, I’ve used this “What We Learned This Week” space for a “No More Trailers” challenge and soapbox.  I’ll link those previous rants and shorten the sermon this year to this lesson.  Less is always more. When I watch the trailer for F9, I feel like I’ve already seen too much of the movie, surprises and all.  It’s the exact example why I advocate not watching trailers to things you know you’re already sold to see.  Save something for the movie. Likewise, Sony has already released Billie Eilish’s James Bond theme song “No Time to Die” nearly two months in advance of the film’s premiere. I understand the promotional aims and needs, but, sheesh, do that two weeks before the movie, not two months.  You’re going to overplay this song before it even gets its proper placement. Save something for the movie. The best tease of the week on the positive end was Matt Reeves’ “camera test” peek of Robert Pattinson in costume for The Batman. Imagine if that Michael Giacchino noir music taste and its scarlet-glow reveal comprised the ONLY teaser/trailer we would ever get for the future blockbuster. Mission f’n accomplished for tone setting and frenzied anticipation.  Your triggered curiosity alone destroys your wallet for the future $9. That would be amazing, but, sadly, we know more and likely too much is coming.

LESSON #4: LET’S SEE HISTORY MAKE A NEW FUTURE— It’s not too late to react to Parasite’s historic Oscar night victories. As the first foreign language film to win Best Picture, it’s name is now forever etched in movie history and trivia game cards.  The challenge to have this historic success actually forge a new direction going forward in the industry. If Parasite becomes a one-year wonder and a thrown bouquet outlier for the rest of the decade, the excitement, good will, and growth possible all fade. Let Parasite be your gateway to more independent and foreign cinema. Don’t be scared of subtitles whatsoever when there is a cognitive benefit to be had. There is a wealth to discover and love. Find it. Celebrate it. Let it make you a better lover of movies. If you need help with that, we’ve got friendly aficionados all over the Feelin’ Film Facebook group.

LESSON #5: THERE IS MORE BEYOND THE OSCARS— For true fans of movies, this was a very good year at the Oscars led by Parasite. Good films, wonderful performances, and eclectic talents were given their due by the Academy and our own Feeler’s Choice Awards that matched the Oscars frequently (Excellent recap show, Aaron and Patch!). But, there’s even more. Before 2019 fades more with the advancing calendar, look back to the Independent Spirit Award winners given the night before the Oscars. In many ways, the likes of The Farewell and Uncut Gems are honored films equal or better than the Oscar winners. Fill your watch list and future queue from the Spirit Award winners before the Academy’s and you’ll get some really good stuff. 

LESSON #6: THERE IS NO SHAME IN SOLITUDE— Lastly, this is Valentine’s Day weekend where it’s also “Singles Awareness Day” because you’re never more aware that you are single than on a cheesy holiday like this one alone. There’s no shame in that. In fact, there’s comfort to be found. Last year, I really enjoyed this piece by the blog Lucy Goes to Hollywood addressing the stigma of going to movies alone. No one who does that is a loser and the experience actually has its own strength and catharsis. I call it an occupational hazard, but it also counts a “me time.” An excellent article on The Stylist by Kayleigh Dray continues the idea of self-care that comes from going solo. Keep that in mind while chasing your couple-dom. You’re doing fine without that extra significant other.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#122)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Photograph

Rating: PG-13 / Runtime: 1 hour and 46 minutes

Romance films are at their best when they come across as a believable depiction of two people sharing a strong connection. The two lead characters need to have a level of chemistry and intimacy that is hot to the touch but also deep in tenderness, striking at the core of a viewer’s soft spot. It is very easy for an experience in this genre to recycle the same “love at first sight” or “happily ever after” tropes that can be found center stage in a Fabio paperback novel; not that there is anything problematic with that intended message, but it doesn’t carry any of the intoxicating and soulful energy that love can strike in one’s physical and mental makeup. “The Photograph” combines all of the ingredients that make for an enchanting and earnest portrayal of African American romance, harkening back to well-known past features such as “Love Jones” and “Brown Sugar”. Director Stella Meghie carries the genre forward from surface level trappings and produces a flavor-filled tale of affection that is enchanting to the heart.

Micheal (Lakeith Stanfield) and Mae (Issa Rae) operate as two vibrant professionals who are enjoying success in their respective careers while living in the concrete jungle known as New York City. Michael is working on a story profiling a female photographer that has left behind a bunch of questions and mystery which leads to a chance acquaintance with her daughter (Mae). That quickly turns into a hot and steamy courtship. Over time, the link between the past and the present becomes clearer as Mae starts to uncover secrets about the mother she thought she knew while coming to grips with the vulnerability and affection she feels with Michael. Stanfield displays new sensibilities as a romantic lead, building on his quirkiness and the “it factor” that has turned a lot of eyes his way as an entertainer. The very talented Issa Rae exudes radiant beauty and the right level of comedic timing that keeps your attention on her at all times. What helps generate a fascination with this couple and their journey is the feeling that both of the characters feel like natural beings living a young and ambitious lifestyle. It is always a breath of fresh air for black characters to be depicted in a style that scoffs away harmful and simple-minded depictions. Lil Rey Howery is such a hoot as the brother of Michael filled with an unstoppable arsenal of one-liners that will make your side hurt, and Lee Morgan, always a consummate professional, continues to make his case as one of the more underappreciated actors currently working.

Meghie not only shares her vision of modern-day relationships as a filmmaker but also through a mostly organic zest in the screenwriting arena. The conversations shared between characters provide an anchor for the audience to connect with the diverse personalities populating the screen. The balancing act of the two narratives that eventually divulge into one handles well in cross-cutting between past and present, but I did want to see more significance in the journey of Mae’s mother. There were some missed opportunities to show why the mother had a hard time with parenthood and her harboring of unresolved issues internally that kept her from being able to open herself to the full power of untamed love. The focus and likeability of the film mostly come from Stanfield and Issa lighting up the screen, and the film bogs down a little when the two of them are not around.

The fabulous soundtrack plays the best of R&B from the past few decades and felt curated specifically to the major vibes the story wanted to emit and Robert Glapser creates a wonderful companion musical composition that recognizes jazz as the singular choice music for depicting blossoming romance. It is full of clean piano notes, trumpets that speak feeling without the use of words, and beautiful saxophone additions. This a must-own soundtrack that carries a lot of memorable moments that will ring heavy on the head for the foreseeable future. The cinematography is filled with the gorgeous use of wide shots that gives characters bigger than life presence and top-notch lighting that renders locations with passion and sleekness,

Take your significant other, a friend, family member, or anyone who is a fan of arresting romance to this realistically portrayed and charming feature. Not only do you see a side of love that pays great attention to the vulnerability of companionship but also the idea of not being afraid to have someone in your life only for fear of losing them. The strength of the film is in its great performances, production design efficiency, excellent curated soundtrack, and attention to the ins and outs of longing attachment. Even for someone who may not be a usual fan of films dealing with love, this breaks the genre’s stale mold and brings something familiar to the table in a new way.


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: Gretel & Hansel

Rating: PG-13 / Running Time: 1 hour and 27 minutes

Hansel and Gretel, a brother and sister, have been kicked out of their childhood home due to the lack of food and resources available. On their trek to find a permanent place of residence, they start to feel the pangs of hunger and hope starts to feel like a figment of the past. Out of nowhere, they find a house rich with edible treats, beds to lay their weary heads, and protection from the dark forces looking for any easy morsel of blood. An old woman, the owner of the house, would love nothing more than to have a couple of extra hands to help with chopping wood and doing the chores necessary for the upkeep of her residence. Over time, the sister starts to receive visions and nightmares of something sinister that she can’t shake; she fears that she and her brother have stumbled onto an evil force. The old woman, as per legend, is a conductor of dark sorcery who has been luring kids in order to have them as a main dinner course. It becomes a matter of life and death for these two children to defeat this evil force once and for all in order to stop her reign of terror.

“Gretel & Hansel” has style eeking out of every bit of its frightful atmosphere based on the well-known Brothers Grimm folk tale. In the early days of 2020, this art-house horror flick sets itself apart from the pack with piercing cinematography and minimalist but magnificent set design. Cinematographer Galo Olivares uses natural light to expose the fantastic beauty of shrouded woods and the interiors of German-inspired architecture, as well as a stunning use of differential focus to place the emphasis on characters in accordance to the scary world they are traversing. When the film goes really dark, the staging of silhouettes in the frame of wide angles is a creepy sight to watch. The color palette is not wide-ranging, using only three main colors (blue, red, and brown) but it feels accurate and authentic to the period setting of medieval folk tales. Director Oz Perkins follows the journey of two starving kids who end up befalling to the dark sorcery of a witch with stylish use of handheld, medium close-ups and using a 1.55:1 aspect ratio to call back to some of the earlier days of historical horror cinema. “Gretel & Hansel” has the aesthetics of an A24 horror film with a strong emphasis of style over substance.

Unless you are a big fan of the original tale, this film is a hard sell, offering nothing new when it comes down to the mechanics of the story. Problems exist like snail-like pacing and hard to comprehend use of Medieval Germanic language. The horrific moments are not jump-out-of-the-seat worthy and the fear factor becomes lessened by the end. Even with some elements reworked and changed from the source material, the general progression is very easy to follow; at the end of the day, what good is a story if it doesn’t give any compelling or memorable pieces that will stick in the membrane? The literary experience is much more superior while the film could have found better footing as a TV series or a short film. Technical design is the only calling card this film can tout as a major strength.

“Gretel & Hansel” stands head over heels versus other horror films in the month of January, but that isn’t saying much. If you want to be wowed by great technical design, illustrious cinematography, a futuristic inspired score, and some stand out shots, this will fulfill your cinematic sensibilities. If story and pacing are what you cherish, then save your money and wait for the Redbox rental. Most viewers are ultimately much better off just reading the book.


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: What Love Looks Like

Rating: None / Running Time: 1 hour and 28 minutes

The experience of love can take on so many dimensions that it is hard to boil it down to a simple explanation. A phenomenon that has baffled scientists, philosophers, and common individuals throughout human history, it can go from being akin to an addictive drug to being a source of destruction for an unlucky heart. Opportunities for stories that deal with the concept of companionship are a gold mine when they hit the right emotional notes. “What Love Looks Like” sadly comes off as the complete opposite, barely scratching the surface of a deep exploration on romance, instead carrying the ethos of an ABC Family teenage show that lacks the thematic seriousness to stray free from a melting pot of underdeveloped characters, overbearing cliches, and dry acting.

The story suffers from attempting to handle too many narratives centered on different themes of love in the social media age. One story centering on the damaging effects of cell phone addiction in relationships would have worked very well on its own center stage. Themes and messages of online dating, love lost, and awkward first dates work much better having the starting spot in their own film instead of being jumbled in amongst each other. The conversations between characters carry a stench of staleness and bad body language; unpolished and dry line readings given by actors make it feel as tedious as the sight of a cardboard box. For a feature to be centered on the powerful subject of love, the screenplay feels as though its inspiration was gathered from the front page of Hallmark gift cards, and that doesn’t represent the real and raw complications of wanting to share an affectionate connection with another human. The music of this film is a smorgasbord of acoustic guitars and bubblegum pop music that forcefully interrupts conversations and negatively affects the tone of many dramatic scenes. Instead of letting the actors show you through conversation how much they want to be with each other, the gleeful and cheery soundtrack ruins any chance of obtaining a sense of realism. The film operates as a whimsical fantasy instead of a romance film that has something new to say on how love affects everyone in a different manner.

“What Love Looks Like” has promise but jettisons that golden path for a superficial take on Millennial romance. The glamour and excitement of romance is replaced with the weariness of overused tropes and half-baked cheerfulness that stunts any chance it had of being successful emotional entertainment. A good film lies underneath its potential, but sadly that remains unearthed.


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Turning

Rating: PG-13 / Running Time: 1 hour and 34 minutes

“The Turning” is a film that leaves much to the imagination in its confusing and jumbled mess of a horror adaptation. Based on the novel “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, we follow a woman named Kate (Mackenzie Davis) who gets a job watching over a couple of children who lost their parents to a tragic car accident. As she becomes comfortable with her new live-in arrangements, she starts to notice something is off with these two kids and the gigantic mansion they reside in. Strange noises, frightening nightmares, and visions of a ghastly looking ghost put her mind and body into panic mode. Once she hears stories of the mysterious deaths that have befallen previous employers of the estate, she immediately fears that her life is in grave danger and that these kids are not so innocent after all.

Brooklynn Prince is such a gem in this film with her boundless energy and cute sassiness she brings to her character. She is turning into a young prodigy to watch over the next five to ten years. Finn Wolfhard displays the angst and darkness that subsides underneath the exterior weird vibe of this haunted setting. He and Prince represent the only shining hallmarks of the film. The character of Kate suffers from a lack of layers that would have helped the audience connect to her intense plight. There is nothing to really point out who she is as a character except that her dad died and her mother currently stays in a mental institution; none of this backstory allows an insight into her wants, needs, or desires which makes her story all the more unfulfilling. Ultimately, the cast is talented but gets the short end of the stick due to an abomination of a screenplay setting the blueprint.

If a story is structured well, it starts the viewer off with a general premise that is easy to follow while traveling through a series of events that will be capped off with a climax. This film decides to do it the hard way and produce a narrative that lacks consistency and relies cheap scare tactics and a confusing ending. Just when I thought I was seeing another generic haunted house film, the last 20 minutes stray far away from the original premise and result in a non-ending without resolution. We don’t get answers to questions such as: Are the kids operating under the control of spirits, is the main character going crazy, or is another entity responsible for the prevalence of terror surrounding the property? It is like a person starts to drink a glass of water that tastes like water until the last couple of gulps start to taste like vodka. A poor attempt at an ambiguous ending plays off like the writers of the film had written themselves into a corner and could not find the way out. This adaption of the novel got ahead of itself trying to put on a modern twist while lacking an ambitious vision. There is no jolt of excitement present in the moments that are supposed to live up to the horror name, every “scary” scene is nothing more than ghosts appearing out of nowhere or characters responding to strange noises all around the house. The film’s direction and editing are a step below average, as well, characterized by stuck in the mud pacing and no style to separate itself from any other run of the mill “haunting” film.

I caught the vibe of “The Conjuring” when the trailer of this film debuted and sure enough, I spotted out the familiar played-out tropes those films have used ad nauseam. No good times are to be had with this film and now it finds itself fading into the populated graveyard of mediocre January films. “The Turning” doesn’t know what it wants to accomplish as a horror experience and then expects the audience to put all the pieces together.


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: A Fall from Grace

“A Fall from Grace” could be a descriptor for Tyler Perry’s career at the current moment. This particular film is a drama centered on a young unproven public defender who is trying to defend the innocence of a woman who admits to killing her husband in a fit of rage until she realizes that there is more to this jilted tale than just the actions of a scorned, heartbroken wife. Twists and surprises abound in an insidious manner, coming out of left field leaving the viewer confused and underwhelmed. The storytelling experience is nothing more than constant narration that points out events and moments, giving no room for the viewer to interpret anything for themselves. Perry is reliant on many flashbacks and chooses to use a jailhouse interview between the public defender and her client in order to flesh out the meat of the film, which speaks to the issues that are present in the screenplay. Tyler Perry needs to invest in a team of advisors to review and undo the bad habits he has developed in the writing room. It has become maddening and insanely frustrating to sit through narratives with no interesting characters and cheap soap opera drama. This film and others like it are only considered “drama” based on the genre but have no real dramatic weight that you expect. You could call “A Fall From Grace” a masterclass in inconsistent tonal structure and a lack of redeemable qualities. Perry also suffers from directional ineptitude, evident in his played out stories that do nothing but reuse the same conventional tropes his fans continue to eat up. Passion is lacking, especially in the laughable and cheap production design that had environments reeking of Dollar Tree inspiration. A moment does not exist in this film where the viewer actually believes they are living in a breathing and stimulating environment; it consists of thrown together moments of melodrama complete with a redundant reality television inspired musical score. There is no figment of entertainment value that shows itself to be apparent or earned. “A Fall From Grace” is the equivalent of a life sucking drain that wastes every minute of its existence.


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: Bad Boys For Life

Rating: R / Runtime: 2 hours and 3 minutes

An action film shouldn’t be compelled to live up to the heights of a “Die Hard” or the efficiency and marksmanship of a “John Wick” to be considered a blast at the cineplex. If an action film can deliver side-splitting humor, unbreakable chemistry between two characters, and flair that oozes its way into finely staged action set pieces, then you have a winning combination.  “Bad Boys” has been the standard of which buddy cop films have tried to emulate and walk in the same quality footsteps for the last 25 years. The new, and possibly final, entry in the trilogy carries on the same favorable hallmarks that will have longtime fans of the series sitting on cloud nine while also ingratiating newcomers who love stylish and intense blockbusters. Will and Martin remain the best one-two punch working in cinema hands down, and they enjoyed a deserved send off fit for living legends.

Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Marcus Lawrence) are still ripping the beautiful and glossy streets of Miami even with Father Time having paid them a visit. Just when things seem set for these guys to ease their way into a life after law enforcement, Mike ends up on the wrong end of an almost successful assassination attempt that has him rethinking his legendary status within Miami PD as “Bulletproof Mike”; it gives him a sense of mortality that he hasn’t gotten a drastic taste of until now. Mike wants to forge on the scorched earth path of tracking down his shooter while Marcus wants to move on from the chaos of law enforcement and settle into being a newly minted grandpa who loves watching reality television. Eventually, the two best friends realize they will need each other more than ever if they want to take down this new vicious threat who has a bit of history with Mike and is looking for bloodthirsty vengeance.

Screenwriters Chris Bremner, Peter Craig, and Joe Carnahan display ambition in crafting a story that pays homage to the Bad Boys brand while also taking some new avenues in adding deep stakes to the festivities. The humor is at a high level, dividing its time between callbacks that die-hard fans will enjoy and the gold standard of back and forth banter that Will and Martin have down to a delicate science. There are serious moments centered on the passage of time, family, mortality, death, and the old adage of “every sin has a consequence”. One area of the story adds a new layer to the character of Mike Lowery and his hidden past that made him into what he is; no spoilers here, but the added dimension represents an emotional core that audiences will appreciate outside of the usual action film hijinks. We have the old guard of characters that will be familiar and a new set that adds something modern to keep the film from just being a retread of past ideas. Newcomers such as Vanessa Hudgens, Paola Núñez, Alexander Ludwig, and others do a serviceable job being more than just window dressing in the presence of Will and Martin. They aren’t fully developed but don’t become annoying either with their time on the screen. Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio carve out a place as brutal and intimidating antagonists who carry a clear purpose, and some might say justifiable reason, to carry out the mayhem and suffering they want to inflict on our main characters.

I will admit in my deepest thoughts of nostalgia that I did miss Michael Bay’s high-octane overindulgent action set pieces and the massive number of explosions out of nowhere this time around, but I have no problem with the restrained efforts from the directing duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. The action jumps off the screen with a certain bounce that is admirable in its use of careful quick edits and some one-take shots that are very well done. If there is any word that can describe the tone of the camera movement, it has flashy written all over it. Direct jump cuts, immediate whip pans, and handheld work will keep the viewer on the edge, creating an intensity akin to a volcano ready to explode. Hand to hand combat is strong and features some striking stunt choreography, although unfortunately, it is very easy to tell when the stuntmen are on screen apart from the actors.

If this is the end for the saga of “Bad Boys”, then it has a glorious and satisfying sendoff. This film is not an Oscar contender or even one that will stand the test of time to be known as a guilty pleasure, but it doesn’t have to be in order to show people a fun time. Will and Martin have the special kind of hard to find chemistry that is enough to compel anyone to buy a ticket, and it upholds the prestige set by its predecessors in the buddy cop genre. “We ride together, we die together, Bad Boys for life.”


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.