All posts filed under: FILM REVIEWS

Hypnotized by white culture, ‘Get Out’ is about being awakened

By LaReeca Rucker One of the cool things about teaching a college introduction to mass communications class is that you get to discuss the history of media, including books, magazines, newspapers, television, radio, music and movies. We also look at current events that relate to all of these mediums, and this semester, we watched a couple of current movie trailers, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Get Out.” While I heard many students say they enjoyed “Get Out,” I didn’t have a chance to watch it until last night when I saw it on pay-per-view. All I knew initially was that it was a horror/thriller movie that seemed to have a theme about racism. As a fan of “American Horror Story,” the trailer seemed comparable to an AHS plot. After all, the real horrors in “American Horror Story” are not the ghosts, vampires, zombies, etc. As I stated in an earlier column, the true horrors are the historical injustices that America once accepted and ignored – such as the way mentally and physically challenged people were treated …

Thrilling Thoughts About ‘Black Mirror’ and Real ‘American Horror’ Stories

By LaReeca Rucker Every now and then, I offer a list of some of the best horror/thriller movies, television shows and documentaries I’ve recently seen. Here they are: Black Mirror: I originally began watching “Black Mirror” a couple of years ago when the first season came to Netflix. At the time, I was a little embarrassed to share with others some of the content of this British science fiction series set in the near future with a technology/social media theme. Some of the subject matter in the first season has the potential to make viewers blush, including an episode in which the Prime Minster’s daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom. She will be murdered if the Prime Minster doesn’t perform an embarrassing act that will be recorded and shared on television and social media. So after watching it, I filed it away in my brain as interesting, but edgy until I started to see numerous articles written about “Black Mirror” recently in The New Yorker – which had already labeled the television series “A …

The Force is always with Star Wars fans

By LaReeca Rucker In 1983, I saw my first Star Wars film. “Return of the Jedi” was my introduction to the movie franchise, and I was hooked, because I wanted to look like and become Princess Leia. I wanted to ride speeder bikes through the thick, green forests of Endor; hang out in a village with adorable Ewoks, save Han Solo from the carbonite chamber, and command The Force as skillfully as a seasoned Jedi Knight. Throughout most of my childhood, I lived in a Star Wars fantasy world inhabited by me and my next door neighbor, who believed he was Luke Skywalker. Almost every day, we went on adventures to other planets in a galaxy far, far away. He often saved me from disgusting aliens like Jabba the Hut, and I was a beautiful princess who sometimes saved him – a feminist before I knew the word. We piloted space ships, killed alien creatures, and battled other evil forces with lightsabers, all underneath the big oak tree in my grandmother’s backyard. She often watched …

Scary movie suggestions for Halloween and beyond for thriller, horror fans

By LaReeca Rucker Halloween is over, but if you’re a fan of the thriller and horror genre like I am, any day of the year is a good day for a cinematic thrill or scare. Each year, I usually compile a list of the best thrillers and horror movies I’ve seen over the previous year. Here’s a list of some of the movies I’ve watched over the last couple of years that you might enjoy. The Hidden Face (2011) – One of the best thrillers I’ve seen in years, this Spanish film employs Edgar Allan Poe’s frightening device of live confinement. It’s also a cautionary tale about jealousy. In this film, an orchestra conductor deals with the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend, but has she really disappeared? I’m Not Scared (2003) – This film is my top pick. Forget the fact that it fits into the thriller/horror genre. This is one of the best movies of the decade. I’d even define it as a masterpiece that explores morality and human nature. In this Spanish film, …

Lohan’s career falls deeper into ‘The Canyon’ with latest movie

Last week, I was given the opportunity to pre-screen “The Canyons,” by Independent Film Channel (IFC) Films. I was interested in seeing whether or not Lindsay Lohan, one of the stars, had gotten her act together in both real life and on screen and was rooting for her, but Lohan’s decent performance could not salvage this film. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be seeing an interesting film or a Sharknado-style, awesomely bad one considering the cast. One would suspect it might be amazing. The film is directed by Paul Schrader, who wrote “Taxi Driver” and the screenplay for “Raging Bull,” among other notable films. It was written by Bret Easton Ellis, who may be best known for “American Psycho.” It’s obvious Schrader was trying to find a good fit for a Christian Bale/”American Psycho”-character in “The Canyons,” but it just didn’t work out. From the beginning, I found this movie difficult to watch, mainly because of lead actor James Deen. If he had asked me, I would have advised him not to steal the similar …

Film review: ‘The Way, Way Back’ and its Mississippi ties

Last week, I attended my first private film screening. It was just myself and a film company representative in the Madison theater all by ourselves watching “The Way, Way Back,” an indie coming-of-age movie that has been deemed a summer hit by some entertainment publications. It also has a Mississippi connection. Jackson native Tom Rice produced the film starring Steve Carrell, Toni Collete, Maya Rudolph and Sam Rockwell. If you remember Carrell’s nerdy imbecile character from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” or his awkward portrayal of a guy looking for love in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” you’ll see a whole new side of Carrell in this film. He’s a confident, sexy, leading man with lots of issues. One of those is his habit of degrading the lead character, Duncan – his girlfriend’s 14-year-old son. This repeatedly occurs on a summer vacation beach trip that Carrell, his girlfriend, and their children take together. Duncan, a socially awkward adolescent, has trouble making friends and communicating with them. It doesn’t help that he’s constantly undermined and belittled by …

‘The Bling Ring’ review: If you’re ‘Pretty Wild,’ karma often comes with cuffs

There were two reasons I wanted to see “The Bling Ring” this weekend. 1. It stars Mississippi native Israel Broussard as one of the teen thieves who broke into Hollywood homes and stole designer clothing and jewelry from famous celebrities. I got a chance to interview Broussard by phone last week, who is a very polite and mature young man. I’m sure he has a good film career ahead of him because landing your first major role in a Sofia Coppola movie “ain’t” too shabby. 2. I had previously watched the E! reality television series “Pretty Wild,” starring Alexis Neiers and her two teenage “sisters,” which I think – as reality shows go – may be one of the most absurd and entertaining ones I’ve ever seen because of how oblivious these girls and their parents seem about everything taking place in their lives. I’m not sure how this happened since their mother tried to home school them using metaphysical consciousness principles with a curriculum based on the “The Secret” or laws of attraction. But …

Movie review: Why Southern women may appreciate "The Great Gatsby"

I understand what it feels like to hear that a movie you love is going to be remade. It sometimes evokes strong emotion, you can’t imagine improvement, and it’s a reminder that a chunk of time has evaporated, at least one generation has passed, and your memories are somehow threatened. I get it. I would imagine that some feel that way about the remake of “The Great Gatsby,” but I am not one of them. Having seen both films for the first time recently, the 2013 film is an improvement with an explosion of modern artistry that blends the classic 1920s words penned by F. Scott Fitzgerald with contemporary technology almost 100 years later. I enjoyed the new film much more than the original. Here’s a quick synopsis: Daisy Buchanan was the beautiful belle of the ball in Louisville, Ky., who could have had any man she wanted. Suitors were tripping over themselves to gain her affection and hand in marriage, and one was Jay Gatsby, a man of modest means with whom she fell …

Nichols explores what lurks in the "Mud" of the Mighty Mississippi

All the ladies who plan to buy a movie ticket this weekend to see a shirtless Matthew McConaughey in a G-string like they did in director Steven Soderbergh’s sociological experiment “Magic Mike” that drew lines of women to a R-rated, cinematic strip show, may be a little disappointed in “Mud.” While McConaughey is fully clothed in most of this movie, (even wearing a symbolic, signature, white button down shirt), you will be rewarded with a pectoral scene or two, but this film is different kind of sociological exploration. Just as Soderbergh’s films seem to focus on the underworld or behind-the-scenes players who don’t always color within the lines of society, director Jeff Nichols’ third film explores the rural South, its residents and some of the uncontrollable things they encounter. In “Mud,” we are introduced to two adventurous 14-year-olds, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who against their parents wishes, brave the Mississippi River on a motorboat to explore an uninhabited island. They trek through through the forest and creeks until they arrive at an …

Tweet your thoughts on the Oscars tonight: #CLoscars

Our Weekend story published Thursday took a look at the 85th Academy Awards, and we asked a mix of theater and film professors, as well as working writers, actors and producers, about their Oscar predictions. Most agreed that Daniel Day-Lewis will be hard to beat this year, and Ben Affleck was robbed of a Best Director nomination for “Argo.” Here are more of their thoughts: Chris Offutt Chris Offutt is an assistant professor of English and screenwriting at the University of Mississippi, who earned a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Iowa in 1990. He has written for HBO’s “True Blood” and Showtime’s “Weeds.” Q. What are some of the Oscar contenders you have seen this year? A. I’ve seen all of the nominees for best picture. Unfortunately, it was not a year for great movies. Individual performances surpassed the films themselves. This was most evident in “The Master.” Two movies were loosely based on real events — “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Lincoln” — and, as such, lose some of the (ending) …

What’s your favorite scary movie?

It takes 25 years before a car can generally be deemed a classic. Perhaps the same rule applies to “classic” films. As a lifelong horror/thriller fan, there aren’t many from the genre I haven’t seen. Many have achieved classic status, like “Psycho” (1960), “The Birds” (1963), “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), “The Exorcist” (1973), “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974), “The Omen” (1976), “Halloween” (1978), “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) and “The Amityville Horror” (1979). Those 1980s Halloween movies, like the “The Shining” (1980), “The Poltergeist” (1982), “Friday the 13th” (1982), “Cujo” (1983), “Children of the Corn” (1984) and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984), have also passed the 25-year mark. “Silence of the Lambs” (1991) must wait four more years, and “Scream” (1996), a little longer. Here are a few horror/thriller movie suggestions for the holiday that may or may not be considered classics in the future, yet have the potential to give you a good scare this Halloween: • “In Their Skin” (2012): When a couple mourning the loss of their daughter returns to a family …

‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ and the Creepy Kid genre

If I was going to write an analytical word association question LSAT-style, it might go something like this: LADY GAGA is to MARILYN MANSON as TILDA SWINTON is to _______________. And the choices would be George Clooney, Brad Pitt or Willem Dafoe. Go ahead. I’ll let you try it. If you selected WILLEM DAFOE as the answer, then – ding, ding, ding – you are right. Perhaps there are better choices than the three listed, but both Dafoe and Swinton are brilliantly strange actors who have taken on some unique, provocative and brave roles throughout their careers, and one of the most interesting I have seen lately is Swinton’s part as a mom in the film “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” Thanks to “The Bad Seed” and later, “The Exorcist,” there’s a group of films now that fall under “The Creepy Kid” genre, and “Kevin” is one of them. Swinton plays the mother of a boy who seems to have a terrible disposition from birth. From an early age, he behaves badly just to …

Vintage video – Nicholson, Lange, Turner, Fonda, Irons

A while back, bored with modern movies, I decided to watch some of the more popular films of a few great actors. I started with young Jack Nicholson, who stars in one of my favorites, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Heeding the suggestion of a co-worker, I watched “Chinatown” and wasn’t hooked because the plot lacked realism. But what I did find on my young Jack journey was “Five Easy Pieces.” Described as a character study about a promising concert pianist who leaves to work on a California oil rig, Nicholson returns home to “confront the cultured and dysfunctional family he left behind” after learning his father is ill. What struck me most about this film, aside from Nicholson’s charisma, is it’s one of those rare films written for the thinker that relies on the viewer’s intelligence to psychoanalyze the characters. It’s an emotional piece about clashing cultures and the way people perceive themselves that I found stunning. That led me to “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” a Nicholson/Jessica Lange movie with an interesting …

Take a Brake and watch a thriller

Once again, I thought I’d update you on some of the thrillers I’ve seen lately that are worth recommending. Here’s the list: Take Shelter – What would you do if you started hearing frightening noises and dreaming of impending doom? After a series of nightmares about a terrible storm, Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) prepares by expanding the tornado shelter in his back yard. If you’re hit by tornadoes as often as we are in Mississippi, having a good tornado shelter doesn’t seem like a bad idea. But when family and friends notice a change in the lead character’s behavior, they begin to suspect he may be losing his mind. The film also stars Jessica Chastain, the ditzy scene stealer in The Help who was nominated for best supporting actress. Take Shelter reminded me a little of Melancholia, another movie about impending doom with a lead character whose extra sensory perceptions about the world cause them to fall into a chasm of depression and anxiety. They are both beautiful, sad poems of destruction. And …

Turkey Day thriller menu

It’s been a while since I’ve written a column about some of the better horror/thrillers I’ve seen in the past year. I meant to get that out by Halloween, but maybe you can watch one on Turkey Day instead. Since I recently got an iPad and have been watching more movies via Netflix, I thought now would be a good time to add to that list. The Perfect Host (2010) – I gave this movie a shot because David Hyde Pierce, of Frazier fame, is a solid actor. I found a quirky, comedic thriller about a career criminal on a mission to help his ailing girlfriend who finds himself in a tricky situation when he discovers that his victim is psychologically deranged The Ward (2011) – Wes Craven, the man behind Freddy Kruger, tells a story that unfolds with a surprising conclusion. In it, we meet a girl who has just burned down an old farm house and is carted off to a mental ward where strange things are happening to the other girls who …

Black Swan and The Red Shoes

It’s Oscar night, and we’ll soon see if Black Swan wins the award for Best Picture. After reading several Black Swan reviews that referenced The Red Shoes (1948), I decided to watch the vintage film and compare the two that bear striking similarities, including creative visuals. The Red Shoes stars Moira Shearer as Vicky Page, a beautiful redhead that is selected as the featured dancer in a new ballet called The Red Shoes that is based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale about a pair of mystical ballet slippers. Vicky falls in love with and later marries the young composer, Julian Craster (Marius Goring), who has been charged with writing the score for the ballet. The central character is master manipulating ballet director, Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). In an attempt to regain control of his ballerina, he forces her to choose between two great loves – her husband or dance. Vicky must decide between having a career or being an obedient wife. Her decision to dance, something she earlier equates with life, appears to …

Thriller Night?

As a lifelong fan of the thriller/horror genre, I am always on the lookout for new films that offer surprises. If you are too, here are a few I’ve seen over the past year or so that you might find interesting. Otis (2008) – Let me preface this description by saying this is a dark comedy. After a teenage cheerleader is captured and tortured by a psychopath named Otis, she escapes and tells her parents about the ordeal, and they vengefully decide to take matters into their own hands. Illeana Douglas was a perfect choice for the mom, and many will remember star Ashley Johnson, now grown, as the kid (Chrissy) inserted into Growing Pains to boost ratings during the show’s final years. I wonder if she’s still friends with Leonardo DiCaprio, also formerly of Growing Pains. Right at Your Door (2007) – This apocalyptic, indie tale is about chaos that ensues after a dirty bomb goes off in Los Angeles spreading toxins. Closure (2007) – X-Files fans may see Gillian Anderson in a new …

Get Frozen

If you’re at home anticipating snow, sleet or icy roads and looking for a good movie to pass the time that is appropriately titled and themed, check out Frozen. Thriller fans will probably enjoy this tension-filled 2010 film written and directed by David Green that Netflix users have given three stars, a pretty high rating for films of the thriller/horror genre. Influenced by that rating, I decided to instantly watch it last night. Three young adults go to a New England ski lodge, and things are pretty uneventful until they are the last to leave. After begging the ski lift operator for a ride back down, he sends them on their way, but soon leaves abruptly to handle a paycheck issue, turning the lift over to a replacement who doesn’t understand that the three are still on it. When he shuts the lift down and closes shop, the trio becomes stuck mid-air in freezing temperatures. Thinking it could be a week before the ski resort reopens, they must decide to succumb to their fate or …

Funny games, creepy kids, lost rooms and Chinatown

It’s been a while since I reviewed some of the Netflix movies I’ve watched, so I thought I’d talk about a few memorable films I’ve seen in the past couple of years. (This is just a rental rundown and not the ones I’ve instantly viewed. I plan to revisit those later.) Funny Games – After reading a review about this 2007 German remake a few years ago, I decided to check it out. “Funny Games” is a must-see psychological thriller, thoroughly tense and unsettling. While vacationing, Anna (Naomi Watts) and George (Tim Roth) are visited by two young men whose genteel, “Eddie Haskell” demeanor soon fades, revealing the depth of their insanity. Actors Michael Pitt, of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” who is frequently cast as “the intellectual psycho,” (i.e. 2002’s “Murder By Numbers”) and Brady Corbet hold the family hostage, playing tormenting mind games. Joshua – This 2007 “creepy kid” thriller is about an 8-year-old genius named Joshua (Jacob Kogan) who begins misbehaving after the birth of his baby sister. When his parents (Sam Rockwell and …

Movie review: Eden Lake

If you’re a horror/thriller movie fan like myself who is always looking for a good heart-pumping, jaw-dropping scare, you may want to check out Eden Lake. This week, I Yahooed “best horror films of 2008 and 2009” and saw it repeatedly mentioned by reviewers. Some gushed, calling it “one of the best of the decade.” Luckily, someone had put it on YouTube, so I viewed it there. Written and directed by James Watkins, this 2008 British film is about Jenny (Kelly Reilly), a soft spoken nursery school teacher who goes on a weekend getaway to Eden Lake with her boyfriend, Steve, (Michael Fassbender), a cute guy who seems a tad impulsive. While there, they encounter a group of young trouble-making morons who interrupt the couple’s peaceful outing by playing loud music on a boombox. (I guess a boombox was necessary because the scene wouldn’t have worked if everyone had been quietly plugged into their individual iPods, but boomboxes are ancient artifacts from the 1900s that can only be found in museums these days!) Refusing to …

Film review – District 9

For the first 30 minutes, I wondered if District 9 was a failed drama that had become an unintended comedy. The trailer’s tone seemed serious, but the crustacean-shaped aliens that loved to dig through trash and devour cans of cat food were comical. I soon realized the initial presentation was by design. And when the film switches from the viewpoint of the documentary filmmakers to that of the creatures and we begin to read their subtitled thoughts, we then empathize and understand that our initial judgments were unfounded. District 9 is a film about the prejudices we sometimes have for the foreign and unfamiliar and how those false judgments often lead to injustice and inhumanity. Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker.

Zombies and America

In the last few years, I’ve noticed a horror film trend. Zombie movies seem to have their own sub-genre now, and its content has become extensive in the last few years. I recently watched a 2006 remake of George A. Romero’s classic “Day of the Dead,” and started to wonder why zombie movies are so popular these days. Some of the titles that have been released in the last few years include “28 Days Later” and its sequel “28 Weeks Later,” the “Dawn of the Dead” remake and “I Am Legend,” to name a few. Here’s only a few that have been released since 2001: Biohazardous, 2001; Children of the Living Dead, 2001; Beyond Re-Animator, 2003; Blood of the Beast, 2003; Corpses are Forever, 2003; Bad Friend, 2004; Bone Sickness, 2004; Choking Hazard, 2004; Corpses, 2004; Dead and Breakfast, 2004; All Souls Day, 2005; Boy Eats Girl, 2005; After Sundown, 2006; City of Rott, 2006; Awakening, 2006; Awaken the Dead, 2007; Beneath the Surface, 2007; Brain Blockers, 2007; Days of Darkness, 2007; Dance of the …

‘The Orphanage’ haunts

Horror movies are usually hit or miss, particularly those that involve ghosts and haunted houses, but “The Orphange” (2007) succeeds in spooking its audience. As I’ve said before, for some reason, horror movies set in England or foreign countries just seem more realistic and frightening than modern American films. I think it’s because American horror films today are heavily dependent on computer-generated imagery. For instance, I recently watched “I am Legend” and thought the scenes with the infected humans and animals would have been much more terrifying if they had not been computer-generated. This is what made “28 Days Later,” a film with a similar storyline, so much scarier. “The Orphanage” is a Spanish film. I am not fluent in Spanish and generally don’t like subtitled films, but horror movies are the exception because you can generally tell what’s happening without having to constantly rely on the translation. You won’t see any CGI in “The Orphanage.” The realistic look and feel of the film is one thing that makes it so haunting. The cast was …

Adventurebilt Hats were made for Indiana Jones

Mississippians are respectfully taking their hats off to Steve Delk, who crafted the Indy fedora Dr. Jones will wear in the next installment of the Indiana Jones movie franchise. Harrison Ford will don one of Delk’s hats in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” that will be released May 22. To learn more about Delk, his hats, and the Adventurebilt Hat Co., check out the Clarion-Ledger article, where you can also learn more about the new film. Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker. Save

‘La Vie en Rose’

After putting my Netflix account on hold for a while, I recently began renting movies the old fashioned way again and was soon reminded why I had stopped doing that in the first place – late fees. I forgot to return three movies for a week, so I’m pretty sure I’ll have to get a second job to pay off the charges. That’s why I made the decision to return to Netflix, where late fees are non-existent. And I like that you can watch movies online. I only wish they had a more extensive online selection. I was, however, surprised to find “La Vie en Rose” in the mix of movies available for immediate viewing this weekend. After watching Marion Cotillard accept the Academy Award for her role as French singer Edith Piaf, I thought it would be interesting, and the film didn’t disappoint. I initially thought Cotillard must have sang, warranting the Oscar, but I’ve learned she did not provide vocals. Her performance, however, is strong and allows the audience to connect with a …