Las Elegidas (‘The Chosen Ones’) follows a fourteen year old who gets kidnapped into sexual slavery by her boyfriend who is himself under the duress of his people-trafficking older brother and father. The boyfriend begs his father but is presented with a stark choice: his girlfriend will be released if he finds another girl to fill her space. So we spend half the film with him seducing another girl, ultimately successfully. His girlfriend is changed forever, sin embargo, and is “released” but only to live with the family and under their supervision at all times.
The film was moving. The sex scenes were disturbingly shot, but featured no actual sex. But this made it all the more disturbing as the sex is in our minds.
However, the film ends rather abruptly. Just as a plotline develops about one of the patrons of the brothel being an undercover would-be liberator of the girls, credits roll.
A policeman carries around the pain of the mysterious and unsolved disappearance of her best friend from years before when they were on a teenage night out together. But when she finally decides to reopen the case and investigate it herself, she soon finds herself in danger.
Perdida is a mystery crime thriller with some interesting twists and turns, although you can see one of the main twists coming a mile away. Sadly, the just-about-passable acting totally falls apart, our main players totally incapable of even trying to react normally at several crucial moments; indeed, there is no reaction at all at emotional pay-offs. This weird disjunction between what is happening and the performance of the actors is vaguely confusing and certainly ruins the film’s high points.
this post was originally published in 2018, hence the lack of in-text reference to Star Trek: Picard
I’m a big StarTrek fan. So I’ve been massively excited by the new StarTrek TV series, Discovery, and couldn’t wait to see the first episode on Netflix! Will it be a hit or a flop? Only time will tell, though most of my non-Trek friends are surprised to hear there’s a new series. Either way, it raises the question: which Star Trek series is best?
The Original Series (1966-1969)
Okay, so I grew up in the 80s and 90s. Therefore, this show was always hopelessly dated for me. I like the themes, and I am thankful it gave us the Trek franchise, and yes, some of the films featuring the original cast were pretty good. But sorry: the series is naff and painful. It’s truly the Great Aunty Edith of the Star Trek family; there’s no doubting the depth of affection for her, we just don’t want to ever see her again because she is an out-of-date embarrassment.
The Next Generation (1987-1994)
So this is what got me into Trek. I saw my first episode around 1995. To today’s kids, this must look as naff and dated at the original series looked to me when I was a kid (The Original Series was 25-ish years old when I got into The Next Generation, and The Next Generation is now about 25 years old itself). Asides from the early episodes which were very campy and involved soon to be jettisoned stuff like Troy’s bizarre accent and Picard’s peculiar Frenchness, the series was fairly solid with a lot of great episodes.
Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
For me, this is the best Trek by far. It’s where the franchise decided to bravely seek out new worlds that Star Trek could go. It straddles the old world of rose-tinted optimism and 22 episode seasons of random adventures, and the new post-Battlestar Galactica world of tense, tightly plotted, ten episode seasons, where the world is shades of grey, not a simple good versus evil. From the start of the Dominion War arc, DS9 also foresaw the tight central plot arc and went to dark places not explored before or since in Trek.
Too much, too soon. Next Gen was just winding up, and DS9 had barely begun let alone found its groove. Voyager would have benefitted from a couple of extra years development. Yes, the concept was good: a squabbling crew thrown together on a Federation starship hurled roughly 70 years from home. A female captain was much appreciated. And the show features one of my favourite Trek characters of all time: the Doctor, who was the Emergency Medical Holographic backup program which was forced to run full-time when the actual doctor got killed. A great spin on the non-human coming to terms with and trying to become human (see Data in Next Gen, Odo in DS9). Sadly, most characters were crap, and it took about four years to even get going.
Brilliant costume and set design, a real gritty and primitive edge, wonderful developments of the early Federation: earth is barely united, and the Vulcans are very much senior partners. Great characters, great acting. Yes, it also took a while to get going. Not helped by the name, “Enterprise” as opposed to “Star Trek: Enterprise”, even the program-makers realised their error and re-inserted the “Star Trek” branding in the fourth season. But by then the damage was done. Premature cancellation in season four makes this show a somewhat frustrating, what-could-have-been.
Hardly fair to judge it on the first season alone. And Star Trek is notorious for slow-starting series which only gear up after a few seasons. None-the-less, Discovery has great design and some lovely characters. There were some shocking twists, yet never for the sake of it. I can’t say it was perfect. I think 7/10 is a fair rating. Never-the-less, this might be the best first season of a Trek ever.
A psychiatrist, who suffered a violent attack by one of her disturbed patients, tries to piece her life back together by finding new meaning — helping a new patient, but he has his own dark history to contend with. But is this case too much too soon for our Dr. Jane Mathis?
Clinical has two stories running in parallel, that of the horrifying attack Dr. Jane Mathis (Vinessa Shaw) suffered at the hands of her patient Nora (India Eisley), and that of her current patient Alex (Kevin Rahm) who suffered horrific disfigurement during one awful night. This structure works well.
Dr. Jane Mathis’ boyfriend Miles isn’t particularly believably played by Aaron Stanford. Sure, Stanford has little screen time and few lines to work with, but I never bought into their relationship; Vinessa Shaw, for her part, gives a believable performance. In fact, Miles and best friend Clara (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) seem to be there just to make up the numbers, add tension, help plot points and just, because, ya know, we need to have a boyfriend and bestfriend in these type of films to be menaced by murder and / or actually murdered. A bit tacked-on and underdeveloped.
A little bit lazy in places — shrink who’s on drugs herself, lots of glasses of wine, etc. — and underdeveloped in others — why should we even care about the fates of her boyfriend and best friend? — this film is nonetheless riveting and tense throughout. The ultimate assessment of whether this film makes the cut or not really depends on your opinion of the two parallel storylines, that of Nora and Alex, and the interrelation between these plot threads. If you feel that the two threads work nicely together, then you’ll like this film; if you feel that the two threads have been stuck together, then you’ll feel a bit frustrated. As for me, I think it all works quite well.
Lost Girls is based on the disturbing true case of the Long Island Serial Killer, where upwards of 16 young ladies, all sex workers, were murdered and buried in a field behind a gated community. The killer has yet to be identified. The film focuses on the story of Shannan Gilbert whose disappearance and subsequent police search led to the gruesome discovery of this string of dead bodies.
Nobody wanted to listen, but Shannon’s mother, Mari (Amy Ryan), was tenacious and made it happen. Deeply flawed individuals. Amazing acting even from those with very few lines. The casting was fantastic.
The obligatory credits sequence where we see the real people involved was particularly grisly and gruesome, especially when the fate of the surviving members of the family is revealed.
I don’t want to overegg this sell. Just watch the film. Fans of crime, thriller, documentary, and true stories will all love this deeply disturbing tale that will surely haunt you weeks later.
read the 150 word review of Fatal Deceit / Gaslit here
Olivia’s (Zoe McLellan) world is turned upside down when, following the death of her estranged husband in a car accident, her teenage daughter goes missing while on a camping trip with the neighbours. But when her neighbours deny taking her on the trip, or even having met or seen any “daughter” in Zoe’s house, ever, Zoe’s whole world, and mind, rapidly unravel. Has someone taken her daughter? Does she even have a daughter?
Fatal Deceit a.k.a. Gaslit (2019) is nothing new. The whole have-they-taken-her-kid-or-does-she-even-have-a-kid thing has been done many times before. None-the-less, the basic storyline was entertaining and capably written by Writer-Director Colin Edward Lawrence and co-writer Erin Murphy West. One of the key plot points was, however, clumsily and blatantly telegraphed quite early on, consequently much of the suspense which was otherwise rather well developed was slightly deflated. And the general release title, Gaslit, has to be the biggest spoiler-title since “Return of the King”.
The direction was — interesting. Some of it was unusual but worked, other shots were like something from Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place: a bizarre, TV movie parody, almost. But the hit and miles wide direction was nothing compared to the acting.
Zoe McLellan is a decent television actor. She seems to know what her range is, and she works to push her abilities. Yet despite being an admirable second-rate TV / small screen actor, she was made to look like an Oscar contender such was the truly abysmal work from her castmates. Daughter Hannah (Stevie Lynn Jones) gave an early and shockingly bad turn which actually caused me to turn the movie off. I took a breather, had a think, and plowed back on. But it was that shocking. The rest of the cast do no better: husband Layne, Matthew Pohlkamp, the neighbour Mary, Stephanie Charles, the friend Bruce, Chris Dougherty: all were poor. Only supporting character Jack, Mike Erwin, gave a half-decent go. It’s no exaggeration to say that Zoe McLellan might wish to use this movie as her new demo reel such is the gulf between her performance and that of her castmates: an average turn/performance has been made to seem quite impressive, just as eggy bread looks like haute cuisine next to a dog’s dinner.
This movie is basically trash. A TV movie for the insomniac. But it’s trash with some redeeming features.
Olivia’s (Zoe McLellan) world is turned upside down when her teenage daughter Hannah goes missing just weeks after the death of her estranged husband in a car accident. But when people deny having seen Hannah, ever, Olivia’s whole world rapidly unravels. Has someone taken Hannah, or did Olivia’s sick mind make her up in the first place?
Fatal Deceit a.k.a. Gaslit (2019) is nothing new. It’s Flightplan in the ‘burbs. None-the-less, the basic storyline was entertaining and capably written. Sadly, a key plot twist was clumsily and blatantly telegraphed early on, a real suspense-killer. And Gaslit itself has to be the biggest spoiler-title since “Return of the King”.
The direction was unusual, often ridiculous, but always sublime compared to the acting.
Zoe McLellan’s a decent television actor. She did well. But her co-stars’ performances were so uniformly awful that it made McLellan look like an Oscar contender.
A trashy TV movie for the insomniac — but with redeeming features.
Mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence as “Mother”, a devoted wife to emotionally damaged artist “Him” (Javier Bardem) who is suffering a debilitating bout of writer’s block. She single-handedly rebuilds his childhood home, which had mysteriously burnt down, in the hope that this idyll in the middle of nowhere will reignite his creative, and perhaps even sexual, passions. However, this paradise-in-the-making is disturbed as a series of unexpected random visitors pay them a visit from out of nowhere, to catastrophic results. Weird, unique, challenging: director Darren Aronofsky is back.
The acting from Lawrence, Bardem, and Michael Pfeiffer is topnotch, perhaps even Oscar-worthy. Ed Harris is pretty special in this, too. They really are on top of their game here. The set up and first third of the film is wonderful, classic almost Twilight Zone mystery territory: who are these people, what do they really want, and why is everyone — including her husband — acting so off? The film is both a pensive slow-mover and at the same time a rocket-charged rollercoaster. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Sadly, I don’t ever want to set my eyes on it again. The film totally goes off its rocker after an unfortunate incident occurs in the house. The imagery and the acting and set design were magnificent and brutal. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None-the-less, any pretence of story is launched through the window (or the wall) with all the ferocity of Yuriy Sedykh’s hammer throw at the 1986 European Championships. It makes no sense, nor does it want to. Aronofsky is a challenging but brilliant filmmaker (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, Pi), but this film just eats itself in pretension (you already noticed the “names” of our two protagonists, didn’t you? “Mother” and “Him”). Both totally open-ended and easy to interpret any way you want — as per our writer’s own work (ooooh meta) — and yet incredibly straight-forward, this movie doesn’t so much think it’s cleverer than it is, but rather it doesn’t give a flying f***. Frankly, it’s bonkers, but in a way that makes no sense (in contrast to Aronofsky’s previous works).
As I have said, this movie has genuine Oscar contender vibes. So why only two stars? Because story has to come first, that’s why; a movie that tosses story out of the window to go down some kind of nightmarish drug trip which makes no sense at all, cannot have a “good” rating no matter how undoubtedly brilliant aspects of the film are. The last section of the film began to genuinely test my patience with its out-and-out nonsense. Being a visionary director who has succeeded in getting first rate performances out of his team is not an excuse for self-wallowy rubbish.
A young woman overcoming a broken relationship begins seeing a renowned psychotherapist. However, when he cracks open a can of hypnotism in their intense sessions, things go dangerously off the rails.
The publicity photos and tag line (“His wish is her command”) essentially give away the story. However, the moment we lay eyes upon our hypnotherapist, we know what’s going to happen; his motives are transparent, his sliminess obvious.
This is an entertaining and capably acted flick. It’s no classic, though. A nice light entertaining bit of brain bubblegum.
Prison Officer Martin (Javier Gutierrez) is driving across country to deliver a batch of prisoners to another facility when, suddenly, him and his partner Montesinos (Isak Ferriz) find themselves under attack by an unknown assailant (Karra Elejalde). Face almost certain death by leaving their armoured vehicle, or remain locked inside as the inmates threaten to riot?
Below Zero is an action-packed crime story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The ending, particularly the last moment where we see Martin look at his locker, brings home how everyone involved — officers and prisoners — are just parts of an essentially uncaring machine.