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Movie Review: “The Guest”- An Inevitable Cult Classic

Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have revitalized the horror genre with their exciting new thriller, The Guest.

Fans of Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) will be more than pleased with the surprising new side he shows in this sharp, jolting, retro thriller.  His insipidly charming good looks, accessorized with the all-American accent, are put to disturbing use.  Audiences won’t know whether to fear him or root for him.  His character, “David,” is almost like a suave Jekyll and Hyde.  Even if you’ve never seen Downton Abbey, gentlemen and especially the ladies will be in agreement that Dan Stevens has never been better.

The Peterson family is suffering a great loss.  The death of their son, Caleb, has set a somber tone in their household.  When David (Stevens) shows up on their door steps, claiming to be a close friend of Caleb’s from the army.  It’s almost as if they have received a gift from God.  Parents, Laura (Sheila Kelley) and Spencer (Leland Orser) view David as the perfect guest.  He is kind and helpful around the house.  Even their youngest son, Luke (Brendan Meyer), is impressed by the polished soldier when he puts his military fighting to use against some violent high school bullies.

It seems that only Anna (the outstanding Maika Monroe), the Peterson’s brooding, teen daughter, senses something is off with her family’s new found house guest.  Though David’s arrival has broken the cloud of mourning that had descended in their podunk, New Mexico home, a string of mysterious deaths occur during his stay.  A suspicious Anna starts to wonder if David could be responsible.

Last year, Wingard brought us the ingenious You’re Next, which like The Guest, is a horror that calmly lets things escalate to a state of restless violence.  Wingard and Barrett have admirably paid homage to the old-school slashers with their John Carpenter-influenced 1980’s styling.  From their music, to their by the numbers outline that follows the rules of the usual scary movies.  Plus, they have added a few secret ingredients that spice up the predicable horror flick recipe.

The Guest may be welcoming audiences to a familiar plot, but there is enough gusto in this story that makes for a surprisingly, hell of a good time!

Rating: 4/5

The Guest hits theaters September 17.

“The Guest” Official Trailer HD

TV Movie Review: “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax” Features a Spine-Chilling Performance by Christina Ricci

“Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

We’ve all heard the infamous skipping rhyme many times that was based on the true story of the girl who allegedly killed both her parents gruesomely with an ax. Well now, Lifetime has taken the bleak tale and turned it into one of their highly anticipated TV movies.

Starring Christina Ricci in one of her most disturbing roles yet.  She gives an unforgettable performance in an otherwise tedious film.  For those of you who don’t know the story of Lizzie Borden, she was an American woman who was tried and acquitted in 1892 for the axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts.  There were other theories that surfaced trying to explain who might have killed Lizzie’s parents.  But with no one else being as strong or as likely of a suspect, the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden still remain a mystery.  Heavy speculations about the crimes still continue today.  However, it is clear that director Nick Gomez has made up his mind about who the murderer is.

The story itself is an interesting one.  But when told through a made for television movie, it can be pretty boring.  Lifetime tends to do a good job with respecting the known facts of any true story they turn into film.  This is great for accuracy, but not always engaging enough for audiences.  Luckily, “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax” is less than half an hour long.  But even the short running time doesn’t make this film any more exciting.

The film starts off well.  We get thrown into to the murders fairly quickly, but not before we get a good amount of character development from the Borden family.  It is once the murders have happened that this film starts to go down hill.  Trying to hook the audience back in with as many random bloody axing shots, the film still has trouble trying to stay entertaining.  By this point, the audience knows all the facts and the end results.  It just becomes a matter of how the movie will handle the ending.  The last 35 minutes is a repetitive mess.  The film throws in various shots of unexplained scenes with never before scene characters.  In an effort to explain other possible scenarios, this sequence becomes confusing and a bit of tease.  Some of those shots would have been fun to watch had they fully played out, even if they were just theoretical.

What I can not complain about is the haunting performance Ricci gives as an unhinged, Lizzie Borden.  Ricci, no surprise, shines in this film.  From her creepy head tilts, to her untrusting wide eyes, she nailed this potentially dreadful role.  As long as she is on the screen, you will be kept amused until the unexpected and satisfying ending.  With all the information the filmmakers knew, they handled the end scene in the best way I could imagine; tasteful, realistic, and eerie.  No matter how you feel getting through “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax,” you will be content with the acting and conclusion.

“Lizzie Borden Took an Ax” premieres on Lifetime January 25th at 8PM ET/PT.

Originally posted on RedCarpetCrash.com

Movie Review: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Burns Brighter than the First

If for some reason you thought Jennifer Lawrence would get lazy or dial it back a bit after her Oscar win last year, you would be incredibly wrong.  If anything, she’s proving that she would be worthy of many more!

Now I loved the first Hunger Games, but Catching Fire is in every way better than the first.  The actors seem more mature and comfortable.  There is more character development and much more chemistry between Katniss and both of her love interests, Peeta and Gale.  And overall the directing was better.

In the second installment of the Hunger Games franchise, Katniss has returned home to District 12 after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta.  As Katniss and Peeta are about to start a victory tour around the country, President Snow pays her a visit.  He explains that when she defied the Capitol by breaking the rules so that she and Peeta could both survive the last Hunger Games, she inspired rebellions in the districts.  Now she must continue to pretend to be in love with Peeta, or her family will be killed.  The two play along well and keep up the charade to avoid any conflict with Snow.  However, after Peeta, Katniss and Haymitch save Gale during a dispute with the Commander, Snow becomes angry over a “once again” defiance.

Snow announces that the 75th Hunger Games will be the Quarter Quell, meaning a new rule will be added to the games.  In an attempt to show the Capitol is still powerful, the new rule states that existing victors from each district much compete again!

This film allows us to get to know all the characters a lot better.  It was nice to see Effie as part of the Katniss team along with Peeta and Haymich.    Stanley Tucci as Caasar still makes for some great comic relief.  And thank you Jena Malone, who plays the blunt Johanna Mason, for continuously saying what everyone in the theater was thinking.  The best thing about Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is how you could feel every emotion Katniss was feeling.  Whether it was the reminder of Rue’s death, or even the love she feels for Peeta and Gale.  Whatever the emotion, she nailed it and it will be the reason that you may tear up at multiple times through out the film.

Though the premise may sound like a repeat of the first film, it’s not.  They are heading in a completely different direction, and with a more central focus of “remembering who the real enemy is.”  With the films just picking up right where they left off, the build up has audiences anticipating something big.

It is an absolute must see for everyone, even if you haven’t read the books (like me).  I assure you it is a film that not only entertains visually and mentally, but it accomplishes one of the main reasons I love film; an escape from the stress of our lives.  Catching Fire might just be one of the best films of the year so far!

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is in theaters now!

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Official Theatrical Trailer HD