Stephanie (2017) Movie Review

Director: Akiva Golsman

Writer: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski (Screenplay)

Starring: Shree Crooks, Frank Grillo, Anna Torv, Jonah Beres, LaSaundra Gibson, Samantha Smith

Plot: After a mysterious global crisis, a young girl is left alone to hide from a malevolent power that stalks her home. Her parents eventually return and the struggle begins to save their daughter.

Runtime: 1 Hour 26 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Strong Until the End

Story: Stephanie starts as we meet a young girl Stephanie (Crooks) living alone with her teddy bear Francis, she cooks, prepares meals for a family, but is alone, only she has something make noise around the house, haunting her from the shadows.

Stephanie does get a surprise visit from her parents (Grillo) and (Torv) who she thought had left her, only there is something different about them, something that makes her feel uneasy, despite finally having someone to talk too and protect her from the monster.

Thoughts on Stephanie

Characters – Stephanie is a young girl that seems to be all alone, her parents have vanished, her brother has died, she only has her teddy bear to keep her company, which sees her needing to feed herself and make friends with the local wildlife, despite being in fear of something that lurks in the shadows away from her, waiting for her. Mum and Dad do return, though something is different about them, as they look to protect her from a monster that is around, they bring a smile to Stephanie’s face, one that has been missing for so long.

PerformancesShree Crooks in the leading role is excellent, she brings the innocence to the character, which is needed to show how helpless she is during the film, while Frank Grillo and Anna Torv doing well in their roles in the film.

StoryThe story here follows a young girl that is left alone during an incident, she is trying to keep her life together, feeding not going crazy and living in fear, until her parents return, with a new revelations that will change the life of the young girl. This is a story that works on the idea of mis-direction by taking us one way, only tot turn everything on its head, which is interesting to see, as we are left surprised with what happens and in many case, shocked because you won’t see it coming.

Horror/MysteryThe horror in this film comes from seeing first what Stephanie is going through, with her haunting and then the reveal of the monster, with the mystery playing into a lot of why Stephanie is alone and what the monster is.

SettingsThe film is set in one location, a house in the middle of a orchid that has seen Stephanie left alone, waiting for her parents to return.

Special EffectsThe effects are the weakest part of the film, as they show us how CGI certain parts of the film are.

Scene of the Movie – The truth about the monster.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It does leave too many questions.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting horror that gets about 90% right, only it seems to fall apart with the conclusion, which is more of a non-finish.

Overall: Lacks the Ending.

Trafficked (2017) Movie Review

Director: Will Wallace

Writer: Siddharth Kara (Screenplay)

Starring: Ashley Judd, Brian Thompson, Elisabeth Rohm, Sean Patrick Flanery, Anne Archer, Jason London, Courtney Gains

Plot: In this story inspired by real characters, three girls from America, Nigeria and India are trafficked through an elaborate global network and enslaved in a Texas brothel, and must together attempt a daring escape to reclaim their freedom.

Tagline – Last year slave traders made $100 billion.

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Eye Opener

Story: Trafficked starts as we see how Amba (Banker), Mali (Obilom) and Sara (Washington) get taken from their different worlds and shopped around the world before finding themselves meeting in a Texas brothel.

Simon (Flanery) runs the brothel with the deal being 500 men and they can leave, the three learn to survive in this environment, hear the other victims stories, learning just how deadly the world is for everyone involved.

Thoughts on Trafficked

Characters – Sara was raised in a catholic school, reaching the age to leave, she is promised a bright life away where she could achieve great things, only she is tricked and taken to the Texas Brothel, forced into complying with the promise of freedom. Amba is from India looking to break away from the traditions and find herself dreaming of studying in America, she is taken after rejecting a marriage plan, passed around Europe before arriving in Texas. Mali is a Nigeran woman that has been in the brothel for a while, she takes the younger woman under her wing, trying to find a bright light to survive the situation. Simon runs the brothel, he is strict and doesn’t let the girls leave, he has his finger in nearly every pot, controlling everyone around him. We do meet many other people who arrange the deals around the world, along with many other victims who face a darker fate.

PerformancesThe performances from the three leads, Kelly Washington, Jessica Obilom and Alpa Banker are very strong showing how hopeless the situation feels for them, showing us just how bleak the future will be for them. We do have some big names like Sean Patrick Flanery and Ashley Judd, but they don’t take anything away from the three leading ladies.

StoryThe story here follows three victims from around the world, kidnapped and sold into the sex trafficking business who meet in a brothel, where they must learn how to survive, while waiting for any chance to escape. This is an eye opener to the cruelty and suffering experienced by women all over the world, we might only focus only three women who all get their own stories of how they ended up here and what it would mean to escape. How everything unfolds is similar to what we have seen before, offering little new to the overall story side of the film.

ThrillerWe are left on the edge of our seats with what might happen to the women, if they could escape or what would happen if they don’t follow instructions.

SettingsMost of the film is set on the Texas brothel, before hand we do get to see how the normal lives did get ripped apart from the young girls, showing how this is a global problem.

Scene of the Movie – The escape.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – That this is happening.

Final Thoughts This is an eye opening drama that shows us how profitable a business that abuses people around the world, with three young stars shining through the film.

Overall: Must Learn Movie.

Who We Are Now (2017) Movie Review

Director: Matthew Newton

Writer: Matthew Newton (Screenplay)

Starring: Julianne Nicholson, Zachary Quinto, Jess Weixler, Lea Thompson, Jason Biggs, Jimmy Smits, Emma Roberts

Plot: An ex-con tries to get back custody of her son with the help of an idealistic young public defender and at the same time falls into a romantic fling with a traumatized former US soldier.

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Powerful Drama

Story: Who We Are Now starts as Beth (Nicholson) finds herself making an unannounced visit to her child, which leads her facing backlash in a fight to get custody of her son, young idealistic public defender Jess (Roberts) is given an offer from her boss Carl (Smits) to step up, with the number of cases, which will see us going through the struggles she is going through.

Jess will end up working with Beth trying to help her get her child back, while Beth tries to rebuild her life, be it finding a job or starting a relationship with traumatized soldier Peter (Quinto).

Thoughts on Who We Are Now

Characters – Beth has been in jail, she is out, cleaned up her life and would like to have her child back, only she is trying to keep the joint custody with her sister from going in the way of her sister, she is trying to keep employment, trying to get a full-time job, which she is struggling with, she is starting a relationship with someone else who has troubles in Peter. Jess is a young public defender that is trying to help people in need, she gets offered a chance at a promotion and is left torn between following her family’s wishes or making a difference in people’s lives. Peter is a former solider that has been traumatized by his time there, he finds friendship in Beth, as they are both broken from what has happened to them in their lives.

PerformancesJulianne Nicholson is fantastic in the leading role, she brings the pain and determination her character is going through to get her child back, despite having little to stand on. Emma Roberts brings us the idealistic character that is unsure on her future to life, showing us just how difficult this time of her character’s life will be. The rest of the cast do show the pain or struggles in their lives.

StoryThe story here follows a woman who is out of prison and looking to gain custody of her child again, with a young defender looking to take her case on, while trying to restart her life. This is a story that does follow many lives showing the struggles in life after prison sentences, while others are trying to help them get a chance other aren’t willing to give them. We might have a lot of characters does seem to get in the way of certain character developments. This does show the importance of giving people another chance in life and will be one that shows the struggles the people will have on making amends.

SettingsThe film doesn’t give us the most unique use of settings, with the generic office, bars and low level employment that Beth is trying to find.

Scene of the Movie – The final hearing.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Some characters don’t get enough time on screen.

Final Thoughts This is a powerful look at how the legal system can hold people up in life, stop them getting another chance and end up causing more problems in life. We have excellent performances from all involved though, which carry the film to the next level.

Overall: Important Drama.

Blood Money (2017) Movie Review

Director: Lucky McKee

Writer: Jared Butler, Lars Norberg (Screenplay)

Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Willa Fitzgerald, Jacob Artist, John Cusack, Ned Bellamy, Antonio J Bell, Johanna McGinley

Plot: 3 friends go rafting in the wilderness. Bags are dropped from a plane followed by a man in parachute. The 3 find the bags with USD8,000,000. The couple wants it and Victor splits, wanting to stay alive, out of prison.

Tagline – Greed has its price

Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Standard Thriller

Story: Blood Money starts as three friends Victor (Coltrane), Lynn (Fitzgerald) and Jeff (Artist) come back together for a rafting trip away, to catch up and share their memories of their childhood, only they have their own secrets from each other.

When Lynn discovers a large amount money $8 Million, Lynn wants to keep it, with Jeff is willing to help, only Victor isn’t willing to take the money, despite the fact he would need it, to make matters worse Miller (Cusack) the man who was involved in the robbery is searching for the money, leading to a race through the woods to escape with the money.

Thoughts on Blood Money

Characters – Victor is the one of the group that hasn’t made too many career progressions, he is still living in a world he could have once had with Lynn, wanting to make something out of it, he isn’t looking for greed in anyway. Lynn has some secrets at play, she is desperate for money and when this opportunity falls at her feet, she simply can’t pass on the chance to become a millionaire overnight. She always puts the guys down and not in the fun way. This might well be a spin on the typical female character in this type of movie though. Jeff is the wealthy one of the group, he has come from money, he doesn’t need to work and at the start of this trip, he is with Lynn. Miller is the man looking to collect the money that has been dropped from the sky, when he learns who has the money he will show a deadlier side to him.

PerformancesWe get to see John Cusack in another one of these straight to DVD style thrillers, he seems to be doing a lot of these at the money and this one shows he can do the basics with ease. The rest of the cast are fine, only they don’t seem to get into the roles enough.

StoryThe story here follows three old friends that find some stolen money and get to show their true colours, while the true criminal is hot on their tracks searching for the money he has stolen. The story does seem to try and give us a new spin on the characters involved with finding money, by making the female character the be the one so desperate for the money, while the male ones are the voice of reason. The criminal just seems to appear, we don’t see what his plan really is or was, which falls flat, with the overall core of the story being about greed showing the true identity of people’s friends.

CrimeThe crime side of the film is the aftermath of a crime we never saw, it is trying to gain control of the money.

SettingsThe film is set in the woodland area with a river that can be used for rafting, only it could be anywhere, nothing feels special.

Scene of the Movie – The ranger bump.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Trying to hide the money from the cops.

Final Thoughts This is a typical, but routine crime thriller that just doesn’t get going in anyway, falling flat more than anything else.

Overall: Plain.

Saturday Church (2017) Movie Review

Director: Damon Cardasis

Writer: Damon Cardasis (Screenplay)

Starring: Luka Kain, Indya Moore, Mj Rodriguez, Margot Bingham, Jaylin Fletcher, Regina Taylor

Plot: A 14 year-old-boy, struggling with gender identity and religion, begins to use fantasy to escape his life in the inner city and find his passion in the process.

Runtime: 1 Hour 22 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Important

Story: Saturday Church starts as we meet 14-year-old Ulysses (Kain) who has just lost his father, meaning his mother Amara (Bingham) needs to work more leaving Aunt Rose (Taylor) looking after Ulysses and his little brother Abe (Fletcher).

Ulysses gets bullied at school, with his family knowing he likes to cross dress, after he meets Ebony (Rodriguez) he starts to learn about the trans community in the city, where he gets to learn about himself and understand his own gender identity.

Thoughts on Saturday Church

Characters – Ulysses is a teenage boy that has been struggling with his identity, he likes women’s clothing, only his family is against everything he is trying to understand, with his aunt pushing him away more than anyone else. Ulysses meets other trans people who help him understand the stigma he will face in life, but show him that everything will be ok in the end for him. Amara is the over the works mother of Ulysses, not only has she lost her husband, but she needs to support the two boys, she tries to discourage Ulysses, but will learn to accept that his happiness is the most important thing. Ebony introduces Ulysses to the Saturday Church, a place where the LGBTQ community can meet and feel safe, learn how to become accepted in the world that often shuns them. Aunt Rose is against Ulysses not being a straight black man, threatening to beat it out of him, bring even more problems in his life.

PerformancesLuka Kain in the leading role is brilliant, showing the insecurity he is feeling, while showing the delight around the people that bring him to life. While the rest of the cast do a great job showing the struggles they have been through or are going through.

StoryThe story here follows a 14-year-old boy that is stuck trying to figure out his gender identity, where he learns who would be in his life during this stage of his life, where he needs them most. This does show us how difficult it could be for a teenager going through a gender identity crisis, seeing how not having supporting in life, can bring on a form of depression until the support needed is found. It shows us how the stigma around Ulysses can ruin self-confidence, but once embraced he will come out of his shell to become a better man.

MusicalThe musical side of the film comes from the fantasies that Ulysses uses to escape the struggles he is facing in life.

SettingsThe film uses the New York setting to show the different worlds around, showing that in every corner of the city will have somewhere you could belong in.

Scene of the Movie – Musical numbers.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The school attitude.

Final Thoughts This is important drama that shows the struggles people who are struggling with gender identity will face in life, with them needing to find a place they can become themselves in.

Overall: Drama worth watching.