FlixChatter TV Review: The Wheel of Time (2021)

Reviewby_Laura

wheeloftime-bnr

When Ruth asked me if I wanted to review Amazon Prime’s new series, The Wheel of Time, I had to think about it. Anyone who read my JordanCon post from a few months ago knows I’m a fan of the Robert Jordan‘s books the show is an adaptation of. I don’t want to come across as biased or get too hung up on discussing the show as an adaptation, since a good show should stand on without requiring its viewers to be familiar with the source material. Obviously not all viewers will be familiar with the books, so I will do my best to review this as a stand-alone show. That said, some terms are hard to describe to people who haven’t read the books, so I want to give a special shout-out to my JordanCon friends group chat for helping me with the following summary. You’re all the best, and I can’t wait to see you in April!

wheeloftime-lan-moraine

The Wheel of Time follows Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a member of a mysterious order of magical women called Aes Sedai, and her warder (a sort of bodyguard) Lan (Daniel Henney) as they search for The Dragon Reborn, a person prophesied to save the world or destroy it. Their search takes them to the small town of Two Rivers, where five young men and women- Rand (Josha Stradowski), Mat (Barney Harris), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), Egwene (Madeline Madden), and Nynaeve (Zoë Robins)- are caught up in a dangerous and life-changing journey. 

wheeloftime-rites-of-passage

I won’t say this is a perfect series- with only 3 episodes available so far, there’s obviously room to grow- but it’s off to a very promising start. Its greatest strength is easily its cast. I already loved Rosamund Pike and knew her versatility would lend itself well to the role of Moiraine, and she and Daniel Henney have incredible chemistry. The relationship between an Aes Sedai and her warder is an interesting one, and the wrong actors could easily mess it up, but these two perfectly convey the platonic but deeply loving friendship between them.

The young cast portraying the Two Rivers group are fantastic as well. Despite Zoë Robins getting the least screen time of the five so far, she’s easily a stand out, giving an absolutely fierce performance. Madeline Madden exudes this quiet strength that is so perfect for her character, and I’m so excited to see more of her. Josha Stradowski gives a subtle and likable performance. Marcus Rutherford practically radiates this inner warmth in every scene he’s in. And Barney Harris has incredible comedic chops while still bringing a solemnity to his character. A different actor (Dónal Finn) will be playing Mat in season 2, and while I’m sure he’s an excellent actor, he’ll have some big shoes to fill.

wheeloftime-trolluc-attack

The show is visually stunning as well. The sweeping scenery and creatively designed sets are gorgeous. The Trollocs (flesh-hungry animal/human hybrid monsters) are sufficiently horrifying. I’m obsessed with the costume design; the clothing is unique but reflective of the environment the characters are in or from, and it’s so refreshing seeing an epic fantasy where the characters aren’t all dressed in generic medieval garb. 

wheeloftime-cast

As I said though, the show is not perfect. There are definitely some pacing issues, especially in the first episode where the ending feels annoyingly rushed. It gets better in the next two episodes, but there’s still room for improvement. The “dead wife” motivation for one of the main characters is more than a little cliche, and having a woman killed after barely 5 minutes of screen time to drive a man’s character arc isn’t a great look. There’s also been some discussion of colorism in the casting; while there are several people of color in main roles, there are only a few actors with darker complexions, and they’re cast as either villains or victims. Even if it was unintentional, it’s understandably upset people, and hopefully more care will be taken in casting going forward.  

Overall, though, The Wheel of Time is a beautifully produced and incredibly acted show, and I’m so excited to see the rest of the season. 8 episodes doesn’t feel like enough, but they’ve already started working on season 2, so at least we know we’ll have more to look forward to. 

4/5 stars

laura_post


Have you seen The Wheel of Time yet? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review: ANTLERS (2021)

antlers-poster

Directed by: Scott Cooper
Written by: Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, Scott Cooper

Antlers follows middle school teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) as her concern for student Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas) leads her to discover that the child’s home life isn’t just troubled, but dangerous. Along with her sheriff brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons), Julia discovers that an ancestral legendary creature has a grip on Lucas through his father (Scott Haze) and younger brother (Sawyer Jones).

antlers-russell

I wanted to like this movie so badly. It’s produced by modern horror royalty Guillermo del Toro, stars actors I’ve enjoyed in other projects, and is centered around a monster from Native American mythology, which is a really cool concept for a big-budget film. Overall, though, I was disappointed. First, let’s start with the elephant in the room: despite the movie being based around a Native American legend, there is only one named Indigenous character in the film (Warren Stokes, played by Graham Greene), and his main role seems to be to dump a couple minutes of sloppy exposition on the protagonists. This could have been a great chance for a blockbuster movie to highlight Native American culture, and a few lazy and throw-away lines make it seem like they wanted to at least pretend they were doing that, but for the most part, it was a disappointing missed opportunity.

antlers-young-actors

The cultural problem isn’t the only writing issue in this movie. It’s badly paced; at barely over an hour and a half, it isn’t a long movie, and it could have used even an extra 15-20 minutes to flesh out the story and made it feel a little more balanced, but as it is, the beginning is a slog, and the development of the monster part of the story feels rushed. Additionally, several of the characters (specifically Amy Madigan’s Principal Ellen Booth and Rory Cochrane’s Daniel Lecroy) make decisions so stupid that it’s impossible for me to suspend my disbelief. 

antlers-plemmons

That’s not to say there isn’t anything to enjoy in this film. The cinematography is beautiful, and setting a horror movie in bleak, foggy small town Oregon works well. Russell and Plemons both give solid performances despite the less than impressive material they have to work with. And the young actors, Jeremy T. Thomas and Sawyer Jones, do incredible work, especially considering they go for long stretches without any dialogue, and I hope that we see them in more projects going forward.

While this isn’t the worst horror movie I’ve seen, it’s by no means good, and I have no interest in revisiting it. A friend told me the short story it’s based on is good, though, so that might be worth checking out.

2halfReels

laura_review


Have you seen ANTLERS? Well, what did you think?

///

TCFF 2021 Horror Reviews: Night at the Eagle Inn + The Curse of Raven Heights

tcff-2021-reviews

One of my favorite things about Twin Cities Film Fest is that it always takes place close to Halloween, so it’s the perfect time to check out independent horror movies I might not have heard of otherwise. While there aren’t quite as many this year as there have been in previous years (thanks, Covid), there are still some great ones to check out.

Even if you’re still trying to avoid large social  gatherings, there are several films, including a couple I recently watched, that are available for streaming. 

Night at the Eagle Inn

Director: Erik Bloomquist

night-eagle-inn-poster

My first film was Night at the Eagle Inn, in which twins Sarah (Amelia Dudley) and Spencer (Taylor Turner) visit the mysterious and secluded hotel in Vermont where they were born, their mother died, and their father disappeared 24 years earlier. While horror stories taking place in hotels is nothing new (this one even has one fun homage to The Shining), it’s still a great setting if it’s well done, and fortunately for this movie, it is. There’s plenty of suspense and genuine scares without any need for special effects, proving that simple horror tropes can be effective when done well.

night-eagle-inn-still

Both the score and set design are excellent. The lead actors have great sibling chemistry, and Beau Minniear as Dean, the handyman, gives a really fun performance, especially toward the end. My one gripe is that some of the dialogue between the siblings, especially when they meet the eccentric night manager (Greg Schweers) comes across as awkward and unbelievable at times. Overall, though, this is an incredibly enjoyable horror movie. 


tcff-2021-bnr

Check out my recommendations of which TCFF films to watch


The Curse of Raven Heights

Director: Blair Smith

The-Curse-Of-Raven-Heights

My second film was The Curse of Raven Heights, which follows a widowed father, Kyle (Paul Economon), and his young daughters Robin (Sally-Anne Hunt) and Angela (Hannah Rae Theisen) as they travel to the home of his deceased Aunt Ginny to settle her affairs. They soon discover that Ginny and her sister were part of a coven, and a tragic event may have set in motion a curse affecting the family generations later. While this film isn’t quite as solid as the previous one- the writing is a little unevenly paced, and they try to fit a bit too much into its hour and twenty minute run time- there’s still a lot to enjoy.

The-Curse-Of-Raven-Heights-still

It’s beautifully shot, the score is lovely, and the family dynamic between the father and daughters is really nice. Some of the performances are a little melodramatic, but it mostly works with the tone of the movie. While the writing is a little messy at times, this is still an engaging, unique horror film.

Night at the Eagle Inn has screened at TCFF on Saturday, October 23rd at 9:30 PM and The Curse of Raven Heights is screening on Friday, October 29th at 9:30 PM, or you can stream either of them on twincitiesfilmfest.org.


tcff-dailyrecap

Check out the Film Fest Daily Recap on TCFF YouTube Channel !


laura_post


AdmitOneTicket

To learn more about TCFF or get tickets visit twincitiesfilmfest.org


FlixChatter Review: The Manor (2021)

themanor-welcome-blumhouse

Written and Directed by: Axelle Carolyn

Hey, FlixChatter readers! We’re well into October, so it’s the perfect time to find new spooky content to watch. While plenty of streaming platforms have lots of classic Halloween and horror movies available this month, I’m always excited to check out new movies, so I was cautiously optimistic about this years batch of Welcome to the Blumhouse films on Amazon Prime. The 4-part horror movie anthology premiered in 2020, with 4 new movies dropping earlier this month. I watched one of the most recent, The Manor, and while I don’t think it’s a new genre classic, there’s enough promise for me to want to give the other movies in the series a shot.

themanor-barbara-hershey

In The Manor, 70-year-old Judith (Barbara Hershey) moves into a nursing home following a minor stroke. She quickly begins to suspect that a supernatural entity might be preying on the home’s residents; however, she struggles to convince those around her that her suspicions aren’t just a symptom of her medical condition.

My main take-away from The Manor is that Blumhouse would be really good at creating a TV show anthology series; if this story had been a third of the length, it would have felt a lot tighter and the suspense would have held up more. As it is, the ending becomes fairly predictable about halfway in. The concept isn’t bad, and setting a horror story in a nursing home is a solid idea, but the writing doesn’t really hold up for a 90-minute movie. 

themanor-2021-still2

Despite the slightly underwhelming writing, this movie at least looks good. The set design is lovely, especially the nursing home grounds, and the costuming, hair, and makeup all look fantastic; I can only hope to look as stylish as Judith when I’m her age. The design for the supernatural entity is a little silly and not particularly scary, but I appreciate that it mostly seemed to be a practically-made costume with minimal CGI. 

themanor-hershey-davidson

The cast is the best thing about this movie. Barbara Hershey gives a believable, likable, and engaging performance in the lead role, and I love the chemistry between her and Nicholas Alexander as her grandson Josh. The trio of residents that befriend Judith at the beginning of the film—Bruce Davidson as Roland, Fran Bennett as Ruth, and Jill Larson as Trish- are a lot of fun to watch as well, and I would have loved to see them in a couple more scenes, especially given the bigger role they end up playing at the end of the movie.

Overall, The Manor is a perfectly fine made for streaming horror movie. I still think it would have made a better TV episode, but it was still a decently-made, unique horror story. I’m not sure if I’ll check out the other movies in the Welcome to the Blumhouse anthology, but it’s nice to know that there is new horror content available if I decide I want to watch something different to celebrate my favorite spooky month. 

3Reels

laura_review


Have you seen THE MANOR? Well, what did you think?

///

FlixChatter: MALIGNANT (2021)

Malignant-poster
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Akela Cooper (screenplay)
Story by: James Wan, Ingrid Bisu

It’s officially spooky season! Okay, maybe it’s a little early to start carving pumpkins or hanging up fake cobwebs, but for me, as soon as September hits and the weather dips below 75 degrees, I go into full Halloween mode. To kick that off, I decided to check out the new James Wan horror film, Malignant, and while it was very different than what I was expecting, it was still a great way to start my favorite time of year.

Malignant-Wallis

In Malignant, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins having visions of violent murders following a traumatic event of her own. She quickly realizes the visions are not just in her head but actually happening in real life- and could be connected to a terrifying repressed secret from her childhood. 

Based on the few commercials I saw before seeing this movie, I never would have expected Malignant to be campy, but that’s the word that kept popping into my head the whole time I was watching it: the acting is melodramatic, there are lots of borderline-cheesy zoom-ins on characters’ faces and overblown musical stings, and the big reveal toward the end of the movie feels like something straight out of a 1950’s horror/sci-fi B-movie. It’s a unique combination with the modern setting, the dark glossy style we’re used to seeing in a lot of today’s supernatural horror, and the industrial score, but I liked the mash-up of styles. There are a couple moments where the camp feels unintentionally funny, but for the most part, it’s effective in keeping the tension high and bringing a new tone to a modern horror movie.

Malignant-sisters

Despite the camp, there’s plenty for lovers of modern horror to appreciate. The movie doesn’t shy away from blood and gore, and there are some very creative and shocking kills throughout the film- unsurprising, considering Wan is the writer/director who brought us Saw. Despite there being some especially violent scenes, it doesn’t feel gratuitous. There’s some CGI that feels a little dated in a big fight scene toward the end, and there’s a bit at the movie’s big reveal that looks a little silly, but overall the special effects look great.

Lastly, the cast is stellar. Annabelle as Madison and Maddie Hasson as her sister Sydney have excellent chemistry, as do George Young and Michole Briana White as cop partners Kekoa Shaw and Regina Moss. Ingrid Bisu as CST Winnie is funny, likable, and memorable despite having such a small role. And Marina Mazepa, the physical performer for Gabriel, must be made of rubber, because the way she contorts her body in this movie is impressive and horrifying. 

I know a lot of people didn’t enjoy the unusual tone in Malignant, and while I can understand that, I personally loved the blend of styles. It’s not like any other horror movie I’ve seen, and in the wrong hands, it could have felt like a bad straight-to-streaming movie, but with excellent writing, directing, and acting, as well as plenty of creative body horror, this might be one of my favorite new original horror films, and I’m already looking forward to watching it again. 

4/5 stars

laura_review


Have you seen MALIGNANT? Well, what did you think?

///

FlixChatter: The Night House (2021)

TheNightHouse-poster

Directed by: David Bruckner
Written by: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski

In The Night House, Beth (Rebecca Hall) begins to experience unusual things in her secluded lake home following the tragic death of her husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). As she digs for answers, she begins to discover his dark secrets.

TheNightHouse-Rebecca-Hall

This isn’t a traditional haunted house movie, which I love. While it does lean toward the more supernatural side, it has its own unique lore and way of conveying it. I’m a sucker for a classic ghost story, but I appreciate that this movie is a supernatural horror movie that doesn’t feel like any other I’ve seen (while still managing to scare me several times). This is mostly achieved through creative camera work and lighting; there might have been some CGI, but if there was, it was so subtle that I couldn’t tell if I was looking at a special effect or a cleverly composed shot. 

TheNightHouse-window

The cast feels just as sparse as the special effects, but it’s still strong, especially its lead. Rebecca Hall is often the only one on screen throughout the movie, but she’s so engaging, and she does some truly impressive physical acting. The other stand-out performance comes from Vondie Curtis-Hall as Mel, Beth’s kindly old neighbor; he comes across as genuinely warm and likable while still showing hints of something potentially dark just below the surface.

TheNightHouse-Rebecca-Vondie

My only gripe with The Night House is about the ending. Firstly, it feels a little heavy-handed. The evil entity throughout the movie is clearly a metaphor for Beth’s depression, and while this is handled well throughout most of the movie, the last five-ish minutes hit the audience over the head with it a little too hard, which is extra noticeable when it was fairly subtle up until the end. Secondly, the ending is very abrupt. I generally don’t have a problem with open-ended movies, but after how tense most of this one was, the ending felt, for lack of a better word, deflated.

TheNightHouse-still

Overall though, I would absolutely recommend The Night House, especially if you want to watch something scary that’s not bloody or gory. The cinematography is beautiful, the performances are excellent, and the suspense is high throughout the whole movie. It’s a shame there hasn’t been a ton of advertising for this one, because it’s definitely worth checking out.

4/5 stars

laura_review


Have you seen THE NIGHT HOUSE? Well, what did you think?

///

The Wheel of Time – 5 Things to Know Before the Series Arrives this Fall

Reviewby_Laura

WheelOfTime-banner

Hey, FlixChatter readers, Laura here! I got home about a week ago from a long weekend in Atlanta, where I attended JordanCon, a fantasy convention centered around author Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series. I’d never gone before this one, but I really wanted to attend this year, since it would be the last one before the TV adaptation drops on Amazon Prime.

wheel-of-time-tv-series-amazon

While we don’t have a trailer or exact release date yet, show-runner Rafe Judkins said on the virtual SDCC panel that the first season will drop in November. So here are a few important things to know before the show arrives:

1. There is no brief way for me to describe the plot.

The Wheel of Time is made up of 14 books and a prequel published between 1990-2013, and they are long; the paperbacks average 826 pages each, and there are 2,782 named characters in the series. All this to say there is no concise way for me to summarize the story, but I’ll try my best to explain how it starts, since the first season is supposed to be a combination of the first two books: when a mysterious woman named Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) and man named Lan (Daniel Henney) arrive in the small farm town of Emond’s Field, 5 young men and women’s lives are changed forever as they are swept up in an epic journey. I know that’s vague, but it is literally the best I can do without going into too much detail. 

2. It’s not “the next Game of Thrones.

Several media outlets have already compared The Wheel of Time to the HBO hit based on George R.R. Martin’s famous book series, and while I kind of understand their reasoning, I’m worried it will give folks who haven’t read the books the wrong impression. Those comparing the two properties might be trying to say it will be the next hugely successful TV fantasy series, and obviously we all hope that’s the case, but plot- and theme-wise, I don’t think it’s accurate to compare them. Firstly, Wheel of Time is a lot more straightforward fantasy than Game of Thrones was. Yes, Game of Thrones has dragons and ice zombies, but most of the focus was on the politics. Wheel of Time leans a lot more heavily into the magical aspect of the world. Secondly, the tone is a lot different. Obviously I can’t say what the show’s tone will be like, but the books at least aren’t nearly as dark and gritty as Game of Thrones, and I doubt the show will be either.

RobertJordan-WOT-books

3. This isn’t the first TV adaptation of The Wheel of Time.

Back in 2015, Red Eagle Entertainment released a “pilot” (it’s referred to as a mini movie on IMDB) based on the prologue from the first book in the series in order to prevent the rights from reverting back to Robert Jordan’s estate. It aired on FXX  late at night (we’re talking cheesy infomercial air times). It was a greedy, lazy move that was made without consulting Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s widow and editor, and to this day it is derided and mocked. You can actually watch the whole thing on YouTube, but it’s pretty awful, and it doesn’t give you any idea what the source material is actually like, so I’d recommend just watching Recappa Sedai‘s reaction video to it on YouTube instead, because it’s hilarious and much more entertaining. 

4. The cast is very diverse.

WheelOfTime-cast

Back in 2019, Amazon started sharing casting announcements for the show, and several of the main characters- specifically Madeline Madden as Egwene, Zoë Robins as Nynaeve, and Marcus Rutherford as Perrin- are people of color. While many were thrilled with the casting, there was, of course, an unfortunate racist backlash on social media, especially on Facebook, from whiny fans complaining that the characters were written as white (they weren’t, at least not explicitly) and that this was all just an attempt at “political correctness,” among other, much nastier comments.

WheelOfTime-book-RosamundPike

Honestly, I could write a very heated essay on this whole section, but to keep things concise, I’m just going to mention a few excellent points brought up in a JordanCon panel on race in the series:

  • There are 78 characters in the books whose skin color is described as something other than pale.
  • Robert Jordan was a historian and had a military background, so it’s easy to assume he built a world where people would look different.
  • He mixed and matched cultures and skin colors throughout the book, so trying to attribute skin colors to characters is kind of silly.
  • Writers often only describe skin colors other than white, making white the “default,” which shouldn’t be the case.

5. The fandom is amazing.

On our first night in JordanCon, one of the attendees told us on that the people there were some of the best he’d ever met. At the time, it sounded like a bold statement, but less than 24 hours into the convention, I could tell he wasn’t exaggerating. Wheel of Time fans are some of the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming people I have ever met. Are you someone who has read the series multiple times? Great! They’ll want to chat with you about it for hours. Are you just starting the first book? Awesome! They’re excited for you to begin that journey and want to hear your thoughts along the way. While some book purists are worried the show will bring in fans who don’t care enough about the source material, most are just happy to have new blood in the community, people who get to experience the story through a different medium and hopefully gain an interest and appreciation for the books over time. So if you end up liking the show, get involved in the fan communities, especially #TwitterOfTime, where I’ve met so many lovely people (several of whom I actually got to meet in person at JordanCon). I promise will be welcomed with open arms.

Check out some of the photos Laura took at JordanCon:

laura_post


Are there any book fans who want potential watchers of the show to know going into it? Let me know in the comments!