Welcome to Happiness (2015) Movie Review

Director: Oliver Thompson

Writer: Oliver Thompson (Screenplay)

Starring: Kyle Gallner, Olivia Thirlby, Nick Offerman, Keegan-Michael Key, Brendan Sexton III, Josh Brener, Molly C Quinn

Plot: There’s a magical door in Woody’s closet that allows those who go through it to erase mistakes from their past. When he finds out where it goes, his life will be changed forever.

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Strange and Quirky

Story: Welcome to Happiness starts as young man Woody (Gallner) a children’s author who welcomes strangers into his apartment to help them go through his erase their mistakes, this makes his life complicated when he starts becoming friendly with a fellow tenant Trudy (Thirlby). Meanwhile Nyles (Sexton III) a man that is cleaning up after his father’s death, learns that he has valuable baseball cards, which sees him getting drawn into a big adventure around the people who want in on the business.

When Woody sees the full effect of the visits, he starts to question why he can’t change moments from his past, which soon starts to put a strain on his relationship with Trudy, while his landlord Moses (Offerman) is encouraged with his work.

Thoughts on Welcome to Happiness

Characters – Woody is a children’s author that has just moved into an apartment which sees strangers visit, answer a string of questions before putting them in a closet where they vanish. He doesn’t know what happens next until he meets one of the visitors, which leaves him wondering why he can’t change his past, which only makes him out to be going crazy to his girlfriend. Trudy is the new neighbour to Woody who strikes up a relationship with him, she does question him about the visit and doesn’t believe him when he tells the story. Moses is the landlord that knows about the closet, he knows how it helps people and who should be the one that guides people through it. Nyles is a depressed man that learns about the treasure in his father’s attic, he ends up follow a string of instructions, which will sees him visiting the closet.

PerformancesKyle Gallner does well in the leading role, it shows us just how difficult being an author with pain in his life can be difficult to get through. This does have a big cast, with each actor doing their thing to make us understand figures they are playing.

StoryThe story here follows a young man that finds himself in the unusual position of having to deal with strangers looking to answer questions, which would see them disappear in his closet, over time he wants to know more, which will soon start to push him to his limits. This is an interesting little story, it does show us how difficult living in despair could be on the people in life, they will need to learn to move on, because once you break down everything, you never know what could have been in the world. We do have to meet a lot of characters, which do seem to have moments of randomness, though it does all make sense by the end of the film.

Comedy/FantasyThe comedy in the film comes from just how far out there certain ideas are, mixed in with certain characters too, the fantasy shows us how the closet works and just how life can be seen differently if people come into it.

SettingsThe settings for the film does try to put everything into a position of everyday, leading down the same plan as people you see in life will have stories you might not always get to know.

Scene of the Movie – Behind the door.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Certain characters don’t seem needed at times.

Final Thoughts This is a very strange movie, it does have an important message, that does need to help us reflect our own lives, even if it does lean away from it at times.

Overall: Interesting throughout.

A Christmas Horror Story (2015) Movie Review

Director: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan

Writer: Jason Filiatrault, James Kee, Sarah Larsen, Doug Taylor, Pascal Trottier (Screenplay)

Starring: William Shatner, George Buza, Rob Archer, Zoe De Grand Maison, Alex Ozerov, Shannon Kook, Amy Forsyth

Plot: Interwoven stories that take place on Christmas Eve, as told by one festive radio host: A family brings home more than a Christmas tree, a student documentary becomes a living nightmare, a Christmas spirit terrorizes, Santa slays evil.

Tagline – You Better Watch Out

Runtime: 1 Hour 39 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Christmas Anthology 101

Story: A Christmas Horror Story starts when we see a family trying to rebuild a relationship with a distant relative, who has a secret of her own, three college students trying to unlock the secret of an abandon facility, while another family illegal cut down a Christmas Tree.

With the three stories taking place on Christmas Eve, Santa is dealing with his own problems in the North Pole after one of his elves unexpectedly dies, Santa must suit up to fight evil in an attempt to save Christmas.

Thoughts on A Christmas Horror Story

Characters – Dangerous Dan is the radio host that is telling the stories of last year, he treats each like a warning to anybody listening. Santa does have a unique look which sees him looking like an older man that has been doing the job for too long, he gets caught up needing to figure out what happened to his elves as they are dying and coming back like zombies. Krampus comes for a family in the woods after they are involved in trying to rebuild a relationship with a distant relative. Molly is one of the student filmmakers trying to make a documentary about an abandoned facility. We also have a family that are involved in stealing a tree, only they don’t come back the same way as they left.

PerformancesOne of the problems with this film comes from the performances not being given the best chance to succeed, this doesn’t mean anybody is bad, it is the way the film is shot, meaning we jump between the stories too much, instead of letting one short unfold, not giving us time to invest in the performers.

StoryThe story does tell four different stories of horror going on at Christmas. Unlike most anthologies, this one jumps between the stories instead of giving us one at a time, this doesn’t help because one at time will give us enough time to invest in what is about a 20 minutes story, instead of giving us 2-3 minute snippets before moving back to another. If we were to break down the stories, there is one very fun and interesting one, with Santa fighting zombie elves, the one with the tree and the Krampus ones are both entertaining, while the documentary one falls slightly flat.

Fantasy/HorrorThe fantasy elements in the film come from the different Christmas creations, including Krampus, Santa and the Changelings figures. The horror is hard to get invested in because the lack of time spent on each story.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to give each film it own unique look, we can tell instantly from each set which story we are in too.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are blood filled which is all we want from a horror slasher styled film.

Scene of the Movie – True Krampus kill.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Santa’s final scene.

Final Thoughts This is a basic Christmas horror anthology which does give plenty of blood, only to struggle to make us care about the bigger story because of the jump between two.

Overall: Simple anthology.

ABC Film Challenge – Comedy – R – Ricki and the Flash (2015) Movie Review

Director: Jonathan Demme

Writer: Diablo Cody (Screenplay)

Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Sebastian Stan, Nick Westrate, Ricky Springfield, Audra McDonald

Plot: A musician who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family.

Tagline – Get Ready to Rock. Get Ready to Love. Get Ready for Ricki.

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Dysfunctional Family 101

Story: Ricki and the Flash starts when paycheck to paycheck singer Ricki (Streep) gets called back home by her ex-husband Pete (Kline) to help support the daughter Julie (Gummer) who is going through a messy divorce, even though Ricki hasn’t been part of their lives for years.

As Ricki tries to reconnect with her own family, she learns that she will have plenty to regret from her life choice, but knows that her mistakes could have caused the damage to Julie’s life.

Thoughts on Ricki and the Flash

Characters – Ricki has been a free spirit her whole life, this has seen her leaving her kids for her husband to raise, as she follows her dreams in music, she performers as often as she can, while also needing to work in a supermarket. When her daughter is going through her own struggles, Ricki must face her past and realize the mistakes she has made and learn that she can always try to help however far she is. Pete is the ex-husband that remarried and raised their children, he calls in hope of getting Ricki to help their daughter, he just wants the family together for once, hoping Ricki could start attending certain family events. Julie is the daughter that has gone through a messy divorce which sees her needing her mother for the first time in years, this is an important moment in her life, one she needs to go well, to restart it all over again.

PerformancesMeryl Streep is great to watch in a role you wouldn’t instantly put her in, while Kevin Kline is great to see in his supporting role, it is Mamie Gummer that makes the biggest impact on this film, showing she could easily compete against her own mother on the screen.

StoryThe story here follows a mother that gave up her family to follow her dreams, where she was only ever just a performer, never a big star and now she needs to come back into her adult children’s lives before it is too late and they will turn on her. This does show how we get the spin on the usual, we often see the father wanting to reconnect with his family, but here we spin in this right around that the mother needs to do this. We can focus on the family relationships and it would have been nice to learn more about Ricki’s kids as they only really get the mentions of being married, about to get married and being gay, there just is no depth to these characters.

ComedyThe comedy in this film doesn’t always work as much as it could, with everything feeling too serious for the jokes to work.

SettingsThe film does show the different lives Ricki could live, from her LA home to her family across the country.

Scene of the Movie – The wedding.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Not learning enough about the kids.

Final Thoughts This is a simple by the book comedy that shows how life can always catch up on you if things don’t go the way they could.

Overall: Simple Comedy.

ABC Film Challenge – Comedy – J – The Wedding Ringer (2015)

This is under J for Josh Gag in the leading role

Director: Jeremy Garelick

Writer: Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender (Screenplay)

Starring: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Affion Crockett, Kaley Cuoco, Jorge Garcia, Dan Gill, Corey Holcomb, Ken Howard, Colin Kane

Plot: Two weeks shy of his wedding, a socially awkward guy enters into a charade by hiring the owner of a company that provides best men for grooms in need.

Tagline – Doug needs a best man, in the worst way. Jimmy is the best friend money can buy. But sometimes when you buy a friend, there’s a price to be paid..

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Friendship Comedy

Story: The Wedding Ringer starts on the eve of Doug Harris (Gad) wedding to Gretchen (Cuoco), he has been struggling to find his grooms with only 2-weeks before the big day, Doug turns to Jimmy Callahan (Hart) who runs a company that arranges groomsman for weddings, only for this job needing to become the most challenging for Jimmy, needing to build a whole team.

Doug and Jimmy work together to come up with a completely story to use for the wedding as the whole team get prepared for the big day, where Jimmy learns more about why he does this and Doug gets to live for the first time in his life.

Thoughts on The Wedding Ringer

Characters – Jimmy has his own business where he helps out men who struggle to complete the numbers required for groomsmen or even best man, he has been working for years in this business and now he will be facing his biggest test to date a whole team, this lets his start to reflect on his own life, where he seems to be more about business than friendship. Doug is the businessman that has spent most of his life working noting having time to make friends, which has become a problem for his wedding, which sees him turn to Jimmy instead of telling his fiancée the truth. Gretchen is the bride to be that has the perfect wedding set up in her head, she doesn’t seem to know anything about Doug though.

PerformancesKevin Hart does give one of his better performances, he doesn’t fall into his stand up routine which does make him more interesting to watch, Josh Gad is strong too, though he does need to deal with more slapstick than he should do. Kaley Cuoco is going to have to work very hard to shake the sitcom background, because that does limit her performance skills in the film.

StoryThe story follows a man that must hire groomsmen for his own wedding to keep his fiancée happy, only to learn about his own way of seeing life that he might need to change for him to enjoy more from his life. This story does leave us asking more questions than not, because it does seem strange that the fiancée doesn’t know anything about Doug, never met a single friend or stalked him like most partners do. It does have an important message about making time for friends or fun, because it will put a smile on your face for the most part. This story does try to play into the strengths of the actors involved and does seem to borrow from other films too, though it could pass the time through the film.

ComedyThe comedy does play into the strengths of the actors and for once not just having Kevin Hart doing his stand up routine.

SettingsThe film is set in the everyday LA life which shows that the family does have a lot more money than most, the wedding is so luxury it is unrealistic for anybody and does return to finding locations.

Scene of the Movie – The bachelor party.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Gretchen doesn’t know Doug hasn’t gotten any friends.

Final Thoughts This is a comedy that does play into strengths of the actors, while it does seem to give us an unrealistic story.

Overall: Simple Comedy.

ABC Film Challenge – Horror – U – The Unspoken (2015) Movie Review

Director: Sheldon Wilson

Writer: Sheldon Wilson (Screenplay)

Starring: Jodelle Ferland, Sunny Suljic, Pascale Hutton, Anthony Konechny, Jonathan Whitesell, Jake Croker, Neal McDonough

Plot: In 1997 the Anderson family vanished from their home without a trace. No bodies were ever found. For 17 years the house has remained undisturbed… until now.

Tagline – The root of all evil awaits.

Runtime: 1 Hour 31 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Basic Horror

Story: The Unspoken starts with the sudden disappearance of a family, blood covering the walls, 17-years-later there are still no answers and Jeanie (Hutton) and her son Adrian (Suljic) move in to start a new life, with local Angela (Ferland) being offered a job as a babysitter to help around the house as her father has been struggling for money.

On Angela’s first day, she finds herself alone in the house with Adrian, when she gets a visit from her popularity craving friend Pandy (Peloso) which soon starts to see the evil presence in the house waiting to come out and take its latest victim.

Thoughts on The Unspoken

Characters – Angela is the daughter of a widowed man, who has been struggling to find a job, she keeps to herself working in a day-care, when a new opportunity comes her way, a chance to take a more one to one role with a child. She doesn’t care about popularity like her best friend and is always wondering more about her mother’s past. Jeanie is the new owner of the house, she needs help around the house with her child and has asked for Angela, with her being the only one to get through to her child. Adrian is the young boy that does need some extra care, he doesn’t socialise very well and seems to be the main target of the evil. Officer Bower is the one that see strange occurrences around town and does his best to keep everyone out of trouble.

PerformancesJodelle Ferland was one of the icons of scary children in the early 2000’s, with Kingdom Hospital and Silent Hill to mention a few, now she becomes the main character the target of a hauntings as she is everything she needs to be without being anything new. The rest of the performance are nothing fancy, the kid is mostly just there, Pascale Hutton as the mother doesn’t do much and Neal McDonough might be the biggest name in the film, though he has nothing to do.

StoryThe story here follows a young woman who gets given a job as a babysitter for a new family in town and soon strange things start to happen around the house because of the past events in that house. Where this story shines is by having the family happily move into a known murder home, it makes sense by the end, but the rest of the story is a completely flat, with not much going on, any horror is noise, investigate usually nothing, repeat, and the fact this film believes it does enough for a sequel is pure arrogance.

HorrorThe horror in the film is rather flat, we don’t seem to get going with any of the scares, with most just being a noise and nothing else happening.

SettingsThe film uses the idea that we are in a murder house as the setting, where everybody in town is scared of the house, but the new family seems happy to be there.

Special EffectsThe effects are weak with the ghost creation not being the most frightening either, leaving this feeling rather weak all around.

Scene of the Movie – Marbles.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Believing it does enough for a sequel.

Final Thoughts This is just a poor horror that tries to give us more of a shock value with its ending over a decent story.

Overall: Disappointing horror.