IT WAS EVIDENT EVERY HOUSE ON the block had life inside of it, except for the house on the corner. Where each owner kept up the maintenance of their home, thie one on the corner looked abandoned. It was the only house that was painted in a dark brown color, from the wood siding to the shutters to the gutters. No other house had such a dark color scheme; instead, mostly white and light-colored paints were used for them. This dark house had tall bushes that nearly covered up the fencing that outlined the property. There were a couple of old trees in the front yard that towered over the house, letting their tired branches droop down to obscure the view of the place for any passerby. From my time living on the block I had never seen anyone walking in or out of that house. I don’t recall any child even stopping there for Halloween; I never did. With a tall, wrought iron gate guarding the sidewalk leading up to the front steps; I always assumed that gate was placed there to keep people out. However, from the rumors I had heard in the neighborhood; the gate may have been placed there to keep one or more of the residents from escaping. By the time I moved away I never found out what was the truth. AS A KID THERE WERE A VARIETY of rumors that would get passed throughout the school. Because I did not know better, I had no idea which rumors were based on a kernel of truth and which ones were total fabrications. There was one student, a bully, who used to pick on other kids. As far as I knew, no one would stand up to him because we had heard his Dad was either the chief of police or someone just as important on the police force. There was another student who everyone knew was mean to animals. If he was not focusing a magnifying glass in the sunlight onto an insect to burn it alive, he was tying up the hind legs of someone’s pet just to see the animal struggle. The rumor I had heard was his parents were extremely strict with him, to the point they would beat him with a belt or electrical cord. Back then all I could do was assume the rumors were true; now, I would have done something to try and help those poor animals. There is always a reason why rumors get started by someone, I feel. This horror thriller will show you what can happen when there is a rumor going around the neighborhood. CHECKING OUT A HOUSE THAT PEOPLE said was haunted may not have been the best place for a group of teenagers to show an out-of-towner. When you are already fearful what more could scare you? This mystery story starred Zoe Margaret Colletti (Annie, Wildlife) as Stella Nicholis, Michael Garza (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1; Wayward Pines-TV) as Ramon Morales, Gabriel Rush (Moonrise Kingdom, No Letting Go) as Auggie Hilderbrandt, Dean Norris (Total Recall, Breaking Bad-TV) as Roy Nicholis and Gil Bellows (3 Days in Havana, The Shawshank Redemption) as Chief Turner. I was not aware this film was based on a book series for teenagers; however, I thought some of the imagery in this film was well done. There were moments of dread and creepiness. The teenage characters were stereotypes that the actors handled admirably. For those of you who are squeamish; the scary parts had more imagination than other horror films that depend on blood and violence. The horror in this picture was more creative without the use of blood. After watching this movie, I think I am going to start to pay closer attention to rumors.
2 3/4 stars
SHE/HE is a special kind of friend. Sure he/she can be a confidant, a buddy and a protector; but what makes this type of friend special is the fact you are her/his only friend. Plus, you are the only one who can see this friend. I had such a friend who was everything I described above; he looked almost identical to me except he was thinner and incredibly strong. He was more than a protector; he was a vigilante. Right after an altercation, where I was on the receiving end of some form of violence/bullying, my friend would appear and take swift action against the perpetrators. If I was punched, my friend was ruthless with the revenge he would administer. No one around would even know what was taking place as my friend’s fists would be pummeling the bodies of the people who attacked me. Usually in less than a minute my friend would have knocked each attacker unconscious, battered and bloody. THERE were some individuals who had a similar friend to mine, but theirs was more of a sounding board for any dilemma the person was pondering. I guess you could say they were created to be the person’s conscious who would play the saint role as well as devil’s advocate. These friends provide a valuable service. Speaking for myself my friend did not provide much consoling for me. I knew I was not going to meet violence with actual violence; it was not part of my makeup, plus I knew I would never win. My friend satisfied the desire/need to make a stand and show the bullies I was not passively sitting by and letting them have their way with me. The anger inside of me was funneled into my friend who in his world could get away with everything and pay no consequences. If you would like to see an example then feel free to watch this dramatic fantasy film. WHILE his mother, played by Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Inferno), was fighting a fatal disease and a bully was picking on him at school Conor, played by Lewis MacDougall (Pan), one day was visited by a monstrous talking tree who had a story to tell him. This film festival winning movie had a wonderful mix of special effects that fit in well with the actors’ scenes; it created a stylish visual narrative. With Sigourney Weaver (The Cold Light of Day, Alien franchise) as the grandmother and Toby Kebbell (Ben-Hur, Fantastic Four) as the Dad, I have to say all the actors were on their “A” game. Lewis was extra special with his role in my opinion. The story was interesting to me because there was one part that was dealing with terminal illness, another part that was focusing on bullying and lastly the fantasy of the talking tree monster. This is not a film for young children; there were many theater patrons at my showing with tears in their eyes due to the heavy subject matter. As a coming of age story this film provided a different spin on it and as a person who had a special friend, I totally identified with Conor’s monster.
From acts of kindness heroes are born. Some heroes may reach mythical proportions in the minds of the recipients. For me it was that classmate in kindergarten who taught me, the only left-handed student in class, how to properly cut paper with a pair of scissors. For the rest of my elementary school years that student could do no wrong in my eyes. In turn, it was not until years after high school I discovered a kindness I showed a fellow student had an effect on them. I know from personal experience when the act of kindness fights its way through the terror of the moment it can be monumental. It was during a P.E. class and the boys were changing in the locker room. There was this one boy who was a target for a group of bullies. I do not know if it was because he was short, quiet or did poorly in sports; but he got picked on a lot. One day one of the bullies decided to wait for the exact moment when this student was undressed before pouncing on him. The bully and his sidekicks came up from behind, pinning the boy’s arms back as they started dragging him away from his clothes hanging in the locker. One of the sidekicks ran ahead and opened a window as wide as it would go. The three hoisted the boy who was screaming and kicking up onto the window sill then pushed him out, only holding him by the arms. Hanging out the window without any clothes on, the frantic boy did not know some students had run to get the coach to come down into the locker room. Those students were not thinking about becoming heroes. YEARS after high school Calvin Joyner, played by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard), received a Facebook friend request. It came from someone who had fond memories of Calvin when he was a student in high school. Calvin on the other hand had only one memory about this individual. This comedic crime film threw me for a loop due to one of its scenes; you will understand what I mean after seeing the film. I had to quickly regroup myself to focus on the movie. As some of you know I am sensitive whenever a bully is part of the story. The casting of Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Pain & Gain) as Bob Stone in this picture was a perfect choice. Besides his affable nature I have to tell you I was impressed with his comedic skills. Kevin was yet again the same type of character he has played in his past movies; but here I felt Dwayne outshined him. Rounding out the main cast was Danielle Nicolet (All-Stars, Third Rock from the Sun-TV) as Maggie and Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Pamela Harris. There were times where I laughed out loud; I enjoyed the make-up of the story more than its execution. I thought the script was simple and tailored for Kevin and Dwayne to the point that the writers expected the two actors would create the funny moments. The easy to follow story did not keep me interested; it was Bob Stone’s transformation from high school to adult life. Heroes certainly come in all sizes.
2 2/3 stars
It will all depend on what type of experience you had in school to see what you found scary in this horror film remake. If you were poplar, smart, participated in some type of sports activity or involved in any type of club, chances are you will find the bloodshed and killings mortifying in this movie. But if you were picked on, bullied or did not quite fit in with the majority of your classmates; the actions of the students in this drama will be scarier for you. For those of you who read my review of the original film back in the beginning of November 2012, you know this movie has special meaning for me. My high school years were rough; the first week I was punched in the stomach because I was the only student in class who knew the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Things only got worse for me afterwards. So, I had some hesitation to see this updated version. Chloe Grace Moretz (Hugo, Let Me In) took on the iconic role of Carrie White, the shy quiet student who discovered she had a special talent. I thought Chloe did an admirable job in the role. The issue I had with her version had more to do with the script. I understand I am comparing this film to the original but I feel I should mention it. With this script Carrie came across as being slightly aggressive. Where Sissy Spacek portrayed confusion and shock regarding her special power; this Carrie seemed to relish her secret gift. It gave the gymnasium scene a different attitude in my opinion. Julianne Moore (Don Jon, What Maise Knew), who I think is a wonderful actress, did a crazier version of Carrie’s zealously religious mother Margaret White. The rest of the cast did not stand out for me compared to Julianne and Chloe. I think part of the reason had to do with their characters. Seeing the mean teasing being done to Carrie caused an immediate reaction inside of me. My body kept tensing up as my brain tried going numb, just as it did in high school when I would see one of the bullies walking towards me. If you have never seen the original movie, you might be interested in seeing this one. To be honest with you, I still prefer the original one directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables). There were several scenes where blood was shown.
2 1/2 stars