By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
This is a movie I wish had not given away
so much in the trailers. The fact that an Oscar-winning actress like
Octavia Spencer is starring in a movie coming from horror factory
Blumhouse with an association with Universal, was intriguing enough.
True, Spencer did have a supporting role in Guillermo del Toro's
"The Shape of Water," but being the lead character in a movie that
appears to be a horror/thriller simply was irresistible.
So, already knowing key elements of
Spencer's Sue Ann in "Ma" really degrades what could have been a
superb movie experience. We know what Sue Ann, dubbed "Ma," is up
to, so that decimates the shock factor that would have been key in
elevating this movie.
"Ma," directed by Tate Taylor, who worked
with Spencer on her Academy Award-winning performance in "The Help,"
is written by Scotty Landes, and since we know Sue Ann is buddying
up with the local teenagers for some sinister purpose, the only
revelations will be what is motivating her actions and will she be
The roster of teens in "Ma" has the usual
staples. Diana Silvers is Maggie, in the Final Girl role, the new
student in high school when she and her mother Erica (Juilette Lewis
-- it just does not seem so long ago Lewis was playing the restless
teen) move back to Erica's hometown following the breakup of the
woman's marriage. It is Maggie who from the start is puzzled and
then alarmed by Sue Ann's inconsistent behavior.
Then there is McKaley Miller as Haley, the
popular-though-nobody-knows-why girl and general bad influence on
everybody. And the guys: Andy (Cory Fogelmanis), Maggie's love
interest, and the tagalongs like Dorell (Dante Brown) and Chaz
(Gianni Paolo), who get a few scenes but way too little character
The chilling aspect of "Ma" is that Sue Ann,
like Glenn Close's Alex Forrest in "Fatal Attraction" and Jessica
Walter's Evelyn Draper in "Play Misty for Me," can disarm people
with charm and intelligence while being brilliantly resourceful and
It is via brief flashbacks throughout the
movie that we learn what is driving Sue Ann to carry out her
diabolical plans. The problem is this is telegraphed from the
beginning so when the final revelation is made, it is not all that
Nevertheless, "Ma" is worth viewing because
Spencer, as in all her movies, is riveting. Her scenes in previous
movies were always the highlights, and in "Ma" it is her presence on
the screen in which the movie flies.
Official Trailer: https://youtu.be/aH6vC-BBKOc
Speaking of actors who go against normal
casting, Dennis Quaid is the best reason to see "The Intruder." Much
like "Ma," the trailers to "The Intruder" pretty much give away the
A young couple, Annie and Scott Russell
(Meagan Good and Michael Ealy) purchase what is for Annie a dream
home in the open country of Central California's wine region. The
seller is Charlie Peck (Quaid), who admits this has been his home
all his life, but now he is going to live with his daughter in
Florida. Except the move to Florida keeps being postponed.
Meanwhile, Charlie is still hanging around,
at first doing seemingly harmless things like mowing the lawn. He
manages to charm the hell out of Annie while Scott grows more
irritated and then more alarmed as Charlie escalates his involvement
in the Russell's life.I
Of course, there are more revelations coming
forth about Charlie, per usual things that prove Charlie is not who
he seems. This leads to the inevitable evolution of Charlie the nice
but lonley widower to an obsessed psychopath.
All predictable but fun to see Quaid break
away from his nice-guy role.
HIGHWAYMEN" Official Trailer:
"Brightburn" builds upon the premise of
what would happen if the Superman story went horribly wrong, that
the baby from some other planet does not turn out to be a superhero
who pursues truth, justice and the American way but something
sinister and deadly.
Elizabeth Banks and David Denman are Tori
and Kyle Breyer, a couple from Brightburn, Kansas, taking on the
role of the Kents of Superman lore. Unable to successfully conceive
a child, they assume a divine event takes place when a capsule
containing a baby crashes several hundred yards from their home.
Some idyllic years pass as the baby in the
crash, now named Brandon, grows from infancy to toddlerhood to young
childhood. The story then takes up as Brandon is 12, on the edge
puberty, and things are starting to happen.
The Breyers tell Brandon to stay out of the
rickety barn on their property -- that is where the crashed capsule
is stashed -- but he is drawn there anyway. Meanwhile, Brandon
displays vast knowledge and intelligence, and then, ominously, super
strength. He has a sketch book he fills with symbols and scary
We know where "Brightburn" is headed. Kyle,
who might have had doubts about Brandon from the beginning, now has
some red flags flapping, while Tori is immersed in denial. The movie
then moves to the nastiness as Brandon realizes what he is and what
he must do to prevent others from pursuing any probes into what the
hell is going on here.
The script is by cousins Brian Gunn and Mark
Gunn, yes the Gunn family of "Guardians of the Galaxy" writer and
director James Gunn.
Once Brandon's survival instincts kick in,
"Brightburn" does get bloody. The question is: will somebody be able
to stop Brandon?
Look for a raving cameo by Michael Rooker.
"Brightburn" is another movie, like "The
Prodigy," that focuses on a scary horror sub-genre of evil children.
On the Bad Child Family chart, Brandon kind of ranks in the middle,
well below, the AntiChrist Damien Thorne.
What hurts "Brightburn" is that it is never
revealed what is driving Brandon. What is his purpose? We see random
stuff, but not even a hint of the bigger picture. Whether this was
done to tease to a sequel is only a guess, but whatever,
"Brightburn" at this point will become lost as it tries to get us
horrified over a violent but otherwise mysterious but bland entity.
This is a superb documentary on what was
one of the greatest accomplishments of the space program, the
successful mission to the moon and back in July 1969. Neil Armstrong
and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon while their fellow astronaut
Michael Collins orbited the moon alone in the craft that would
transport the three men back to Earth.
Director Todd Douglas Miller managed to go
through tons of footage, all shot on film back then, and provide a
taut 93-minute recap of the misson. The team putting the documentary
together used the work of Ben Feist, who was able to improve the
quality of the sound recordings, cleaning up the communications
between NASA and the astronauts. Feist also did a great job of
logging the times of the communications, allowing Miller and company
to synchronize the radio exchanges to the film.
"Apollo 11" has no narration, but uses
subtitles to offer additional data, such as telemetry displaying the
rapid acceleration during the booster rocket firings as well as the
scary rapid descent numbers as the lunar module Eagle was landing on
This movie unfortunately only had limited
release in theaters but it is well worth a look if it shows up on
other platforms. It is a film of triumph as well as a recalling of
the 1960s and an illustration of how technology has changed in the
50 years since. Also, it offers a much more lively real-life Neil
Armstrong than what Ryan Gosling did in "First Man."
Now being showcased on Shudder, "Lizzie,"
co-produced and starring Chloe Sevigny, is another take on the
famous 1892 double murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, in which
despite a consensus among people that the killings were committed by
daughter Lizzie, nevertheless ended in an acquittal of the young
woman. One of the sensations of the crime was the belief that Lizzie
took an axe to her father and stepmother while nude, thus
eradicating the possibility of blood being found on her clothing.
The stunning murders also were the
inspiration for this little ditty:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
Give her mother 40 whacks
When she saw what she had done
Gave her father 41
I am old enough to remember when Elizabeth
Montgomery, just three years removed from her iconic run as the
adorable witch Samantha Stevens in the TV series "Bewitched,"
created a sensation when she went against casting and played Lizzie
in the TV movie "The Legend of Lizzie Borden" in 1975. Christina
Ricci also has taken a shot at Lizzie Borden, more TV productions --
"Lizzie Borden Took an Axe" and "The Lizzie Borden Chronicles" in
"Lizzie," however, is not a TV movie and
thus not subjected to content restraints. So the nudity is not
implied and the violence is brutal if not explicit. The results of
the attack are shown and pretty gory.
Sevigny portrays Lizzie much like the other
performances, as a young woman trying to be rebelious under the
stern thumb of her father but constrained because she must rely on
him to survive. She and her sister Emma (Kim Dickens) live in a
large but darkly lighted home.
Andrew Borden (Jamie Sheridan) here is seen
as a not too sympathetic character. He seems to love his daughters
and strives to protect them but also appears to thrive as an
uncompromising patriarch. Other portrayals show him as a ruthless
businessman who has made his share of enemies, which helped in
Lizzie's trial in suggesting there were other people out there who
wanted Andrew dead.
"Lizzie" focuses on another pivotal
character, the live-in maid Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart). She
and Lizzie become close, and more than friends. In addition, Andrew
sneaks into Bridget's bedroom at night, this hinting that maybe even
Bridget had reasons for wanting the man dead. Meanwhile, Abby (Fiona
Shaw), is passive and timid and accepts that her husband is fooling
around with the maid.
Abby and Lizzie do not seem to have a tense
relationship here, which makes the brutal slaying of the older woman
even more terrifying. It is overkill that is more attuned to horror
flicks. Following the hacking to death of Andrew, Lizzie is the one
who demands the police be summoned, as she either is innocent of the
crimes or setting the foundation for getting away with murder.
The trial in "Lizzie" features Bridget as
the key witness who appears to clear Lizzie of guilt, possibly
because Bridget herself might have been culpable.
Although Lizzie Borden was found not guilty,
she has been since seen as a cold-blooded killer. She is seen as
being shunned post-trial, and in real life, she and Emma were
alienated the rest of their lives.
Much like Bonnie and Clyde and the shootout
at OK Corral, the Lizzie Borden case has been entrenched in
folklore. So there have been and will be more interpretations, as
well as books and even cruises. "Lizzie," written by Bryce Kass and
directed by Craig William Macneill, offers an explicit take on a
case that will never be satisfactorially resolved.