Movie Review ~ The Owners

The Facts

Synopsis: A group of friends think they find an easy score at an empty house with a safe full of cash. But when the owners, an elderly couple, come home early, the tables are suddenly turned.

Stars: Maisie Williams,  Sylvester McCoy,  Jake Curran, Ian Kenny,  Andrew Ellis, Rita Tushingham

Director: Julius Berg

Rated: NR

Running Length: 92 minutes

TMMM Score: (4/10)

Review:  As the summer days dwindle and the fall weather approaches, I’ve started to see less of those super hot pool days and more of the chilly temps that signal a time when we’ll be indoors even more than we are now.  The last few months most of the world has been relegated indoors, hopefully staving off the further spread of a pandemic.  Some, like myself, don’t mind the excuse to be a homebody for a little while and not have to leave the confines of home so often while others get the cabin-fever itch to roam.  These are the people you may need to worry about, especially if you live in areas where snow may trap them inside for a lengthy period through the beginning of next year.

Luckily, we have a wealth of movies to get us through our time but strangely there have been a number of films that might exacerbate your feelings of claustrophobia.  Last week’s release Centigrade found a couple frozen inside their rental car, desperately trying to free themselves before they starve or freeze to death.  Then there was Relic, the awesome Australian drama-horror which preyed upon fears not just of the physical but of the mental as well, where even your house turns against you and can’t be trusted.  Homewrecker was a cautionary tale of never accepting the kindness of strangers, especially those that invite you into their home right away and June’s You Should Have Left takes the haunted house genre to skewed new levels.  Finally, The Rental was a dark, twisty reminder that the vacation home that’s too good to be true often is.

Now comes The Owners and it’s likely the nastiest one of them all and while you’d expect that statement to be followed with “and that’s a good thing”,  I sadly can’t say that about this adaptation of a 2017 French graphic novel.  Though it has all the makings of a grim good time and feels as if it possesses a slick swath of tricks up its sleeves with a solid opening introduction, it bungles its pivotal reveal which sends the remaining hour into a downward spiral.  Moving from suspense to laughs is never a good thing and that’s where The Owners finds itself when it hands over the keys and the credits roll.

Feeling an awful lot like 2016’s far superior and infinitely more surprising Don’t Breathe, The Owners opens with mates Nathan (Ian Kenny, Solo: A Star Wars Story) and Terry (Andrew Ellis) scoping out the remote home of the local doctor with their new acquaintance Gaz (Jake Curran, Fury).  It’s clear from the start that there’s a problem with the power dynamic in the group, with Nathan appearing to be the leader but the more brutal and soulless Gaz often goading the weaker man on to make decisions while seemingly naïve Terry watches it all unfold.  Nathan’s girlfriend Mary (Maisie Williams, The New Mutants) eventually joins the group and goes along, only because she’s promised the burglary of a safe the doctor keeps hidden will be an easy in and out job.

Of course, nothing goes as planned because after they enter the house the movie makes the first of several right turns meant to keep the audience off balance.  The first few times, writer/director Julius Berg and co-writer Mathieu Gompel accomplish their mission in creating some intrigue for viewers in wanting to know more.  Against our better judgement, we want the gang to go further into the house and uncover more of what’s behind the closed doors.  They’ve got one whopper of a shocker ready to pounce but unfortunately, that’s where the creative juices start to dry up and turn sticky.

It should come as no surprise that the doctor (Sylvester McCoy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, doing his best Ian Holm impression and succeeding) and his dotty wife (Rita Tushingham, Doctor Zhivago) return and become a part of the night’s events.  Continuing its icky descent, Berg heaps on the violence and gore and instead of focusing on finding plot points to make the characters interesting it feels as if the filmmakers were just out to make a catch and kill chase flick with diminishing logic the longer everyone is alive.  Characters take forever to realize the imminent danger they’re in and by that point you’ve already written them off, if you haven’t already wondered why they’ve suddenly changed their personalities entirely.  One character morphs into such a different person with new motivations that I half thought they were the evil twin of the original.

With films like Don’t Breathe or another nifty entry, 2015’s Intruders, home invasion thrillers have shown they can take a simple fear and maximize the suspense with some creative energy put forth.  The Owners has a game cast and every material needed to join the ranks as a successful entry in the genre but can’t make a flame out of the sparks it attempts to generate.

Movie Review ~ Early Man

The Facts

Synopsis: Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of Dug, along with sidekick Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City to save their home.

Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall

Director: Nick Park

Rated: PG

Running Length: 89 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review: With all due respect to our prehistoric ancestors, I’ve always found movies about the dawn of man to be a bit of a drag. In films like the prologue of 2001: A Space Odyssey to One Million Years B.C. to 10,000 B.C. to The Croods, there’s only so far my imagination can take me before I’m wondering when technology will find its way into the lives of primitive man. That may help explain why I wasn’t thrilling to the notion of spending an hour and a half with the cavemen and women brought to stop-motion life in Early Man.

I’ve been a fan of Aardman Animations since their Wallace and Gromit days and they’ve continued to churn out quality work for the past several decades. They’ve brought the barnyard to life in Chicken Run and the Shaun the Sheep Movie and snagged an Oscar nomination for their work on The Pirates! Band of Misfits in 2012. While their latest effort is packed with jokes on top of jokes and is another wonderful use of the stop-motion technique, it falls far short of the overall entertainment package Aardman has come to be known for.

Early Man is set at the tail end of the Stone Age and introduces us to the tribe led by Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner). Hunting rabbits as a group and going about their daily lives without much disruption seems like the long-term plan for all but young Dug (Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl) dreams of something more. Instead of the mammoth mammoth hunt he years for, he gets a taste of the future when Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston, Muppets Most Wanted) and his Bronze Age army tries to take over their land.

When Dug mistakenly hitches a ride back with Nooth’s troops he gets an eyeful. The crude stone utensils, clothes, and housing he’s used to give way to the latest in advanced design. Then there’s the stadium which houses the popular football (aka soccer for us Americans) games and it’s when he accidentally finds himself on the field and under Nooth’s glare that Dug proposes a challenge. If he and his tribe can beat the best players Nooth has to offer, Nooth will vacate the land. If they lose, they’ll be a nomadic tribe without even the most basic creature comforts they were used to.

The bulk of the film has Dug getting his team in gear with the help of a could-be love interest named Goona. As expected, the rag-tag members of this football party start without a prayer but (spoiler alert!) get good enough to take on Nooth’s ace team. It’s a disappointingly predictable affair with many of the standard lessons learned along the way. There are ample bits of comedy and visual sight gags but its low impact laughter if you think about it.

Director Nick Park could have trimmed the movie by a good ten minutes, truncating some of the characters more repetitive tics and eliminating a few of them all together. I kept waiting for something to inspire as well as entertain but Park and company just can’t get out of the deep valley of familiarity they’ve found themselves in. If there’s a strong positive for the movie, it’s that it’s as family friendly as they get. While adult audiences have had a spotty run in theaters lately, with Paddington 2, Peter Rabbit, and now Early Man, families looking to spend some time at the theaters have at least three decent options.

31 Days to Scare ~ The New Mutants (Trailer)

Synopsis: Five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, fight to escape their past sins and save themselves

Release Date: April 13, 2018

Thoughts: The recent Friday the 13th saw the arrival of Happy Death Day, a ho-hum low-impact entry in the profitable horror genre.  The next Friday the 13th in April 2018 might have more of a humdinger in store and that has me interested.  In the midst of growing comic book fatigue from audiences, Marvel and 20th Century Fox have taken a left turn and introduced some horror into their action packed universe. The New Mutants is the first release in an intended trilogy and it appears to have more scares on the menu than the X-Men series it was spun-off from.  Directed by Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) and featuring a nice supply of up and coming stars, I’m hoping this one pays off and other franchises take note.