Tag Archives: jacob tremblay

Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep

I read a thing recently that Stephen King’s The Shining and Doctor Sleep, although two sides of the same coin, are very much in different places thematically. The Shining deals with isolation, confinement and madness whereas Doctor Sleep explores escape, pursuit and redemption. This could be the reason that I loved Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep a lot more than I did Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which felt so much richer, wider in scope, ambition and rewarding in story. The Shining is a cold, hard and admittedly brilliant horror film but going from that aesthetic to Doctor Sleep is like holding your breath until you almost faint and then letting out one monumental exhale that feels a lot better than what came before. Sleep is the exhale, a flowing, horrific, cathartic and gorgeous dark jewel of a horror film that stands as loving homage to Kubrick’s film but just does so much more on a wider canvas.

Flanagan spends the first half of this story establishing setting, characters and history in economic yet leisurely fashion, as this runs for a delicious two and a half hours. Dan Torrence (Roger Dale Floyd) and his mom Wendy (Alex Essoe, not quite a dead ringer for Shelley Duvall but she finds her own essence and I liked her work) survived their nightmarish stay at the haunted Overlook Hotel and did their best to carry on with life. Fast forward all the way to 2011 and Dan is now a haggard looking and near homeless Ewan McGregor, bus hopping his way across the states and arriving in a small county to find help from AA and work at a hospice for dying elderly folks. Elsewhere, a roving band of vampiric creatures calling themselves The True Knot search for kids like Dan who possess the ‘Shine’, and consume it for sustenance. Also out there is young Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a girl with maybe the biggest reservoir of Shine within her and the power to defeat the Knot and their evil leader Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). This power struggle of course eventually leads them back to where Dan’s story originally began, the now derelict and rotting Overlook, fast asleep and waiting.

I loved this film. It’s so much more comprehensive and on fire than The Shining’s chilly aura gave us. Characters are sharply drawn, performances are wonderfully shaped and there are so many ideas, references and nods to the King Dark Tower multiverse that positively gave me chills. Ferguson is a tornado of pure malice as Rose The Hat, embodying shades of Stevie Nicks and playing this evil supernatural gypsy bitch to the absolute height of performance. Curran is a brilliant find as Abra, she radiates the resilience of this kid while clearly showing the fear, uncertainty and vulnerability of someone with such powers. McGregor is gruff and haunted as Dan, a casting choice that seems simultaneously out of left field and fitting like a glove. There are other familiar faces across this landscape including Cliff Curtis, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, Robert Longstreet, Zahn McLarnon and Carel Stryucken who we fondly remember as The Fireman from Twin Peaks and The Moonlight Man from Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game. Room’s Jacob Tremblay also shows up as an unfortunate young victim of The Knot who gets slaughtered in a sequence of raw evil that will send a shiver down spines en masse. At the heart of this story is compassion though; Dan, with the help of an adorable cat, eases numerous elderly folks across the threshold of death with kindness and these scenes affect overall and add warmth to his character, while hitting me on a deeply personal level given my experiences with such things this past year. He’s forced to go back and confront the evil that he prayed he’d never see again and it’s a strong ray of redemption, for him and his now dead father who fell victim to such horrors. There is a lot at work here, it blows this world right open and finds connective tissue to King’s universe where Kubrick kept things close to the chest and contained. One of the best horror films, King adaptations and pieces of storytelling I’ve seen in some time.

-Nate Hill

Shane Black’s The Predator

So.. Shane Black’s The Predator. Haters gonna hate I suppose, but I really don’t get the negativity thrown this one’s way, it’s a shit ton of fun. Admittedly a stark departure from any other film in the franchise, Black’s signature is to brand things with an irreverent comedic stamp, and they should have realized that when they handed over the torch to him. This is Predator in American suburbia, a much smaller film than those before, but no less gory, imaginative or propulsive, and certainly nowhere close to as disappointing as I’ve read in some of these hilarious reviews. After a jungle set opening that mirrors John McTiernan’s original classic both visually and musically, a device worn by one of the Predators gets accidentally mailed to the young son (Room’s Jacob Tremblay) of the military sniper (Boyd Holbrook, channeling 80’s Michael Biehn nicely) who managed to kill one of them, all hell breaks loose when the rest of the creatures come looking for it, and intergalactic war hits the home front. Holbrook is placed on a prison bus populated by the Loonies, disgraced ex soldiers with PTSD who serve as the perfect rogue unit to abscond with the bus and take on the aliens using guns, bad jokes, a constant stream of profanity and eccentric personalities. Elsewhere, Olivia Munn’s super scientist makes educated guesses about both the intentions and biology of the Predators, eventually joining forces with the Loonies. It’s madcap and almost has an adult Amblin vibe which actually works quite well. Scene stealer Sterling K. Brown makes an oddball villain as a snarky Fed with his own agenda, while Jake Busey slyly plays the son of his dad’s Uber Predator hunter from the 1990 sequel. Now, the Loonies are as off colour a bunch as you’d expect to see in a Shane Black flick, but for me their weird chemistry and crudeness worked. Keegan Michael Key is the coked up comic relief, a guy who punctuates every awkward silence with a severely raunchy joke, Alfie Allen is underwritten but present, Trevente Rhodes scores big as Nebraska Williams, a chain smoking ex CO who is the brains of the bunch. My favourite performance of the film is Thomas Jane cast way against type as Baxley, who suffers from Tourette’s except when the plot requires him to steadily hold a firearm. I’ve read a lot of people call his character insensitive and I’m not sure what they’re drawing from, I have a family member who has Tourette’s and Jane’s work here is one of the most realistic depictions I’ve seen on film, it’s probably just all the other comedic commotion around him that accents it. Alongside Jane, I really like Munn, who obviously doesn’t look the part of a brainy scientist but fully gets the vibe here and has a lot of fun with her role. The Predators themselves seem bigger, louder and more vicious than before, often seen in broad daylight, with nastier attitudes and, at one point, speaking in plain English albeit via translator. Their part of the story is definitely far fetched but has imagination and thought put into it. They’re less the hunters here (except for that eleven foot tall motherfucker) and more like space spies with their own private feud going on. This has obviously been a divisive film so far.. I’ve heard a buddy say that it’s ‘one of the worst movies he’s ever seen.’ I can’t imagine that’s anything but overzealous overkill, it’s not an instant classic or anything but it was bloody fun, entertaining stuff. Honestly, my only complaint? It wasn’t long enough. There are areas that feel patchy and I imagine that’s where this studio interference I keep hearing about took place, and although it doesn’t come close to ruining the movie, I’d really love to see a director’s cut from Black at some point. But what we got was a solid blast of a film from where I’m sat. I mean, you get a guy like Shane Black to make a Predator film, it’s not like this is some gun for hire, he’s his own specific artist and is going to make the thing his way. Studio cuts aside, he’s done a slam bang job here, an action horror comedy sci-fi hybrid that feels as retro as it should while injecting new life and flavour into the mythos. Call me crazy, I guess.

-Nate Hill

Room: A review by Nate Hill

It’s hard for me to fully express the staggering impression that Room left on me using only the written word, but I’ll have a go at it anyway. First I’ll say that it’s hands down my favourite film of the year thus far, and I left the theatre with many emotions swelling in me, affected in a way the only a small group of films have been able do for me. It’s a patient, mature study in psychology and a sweeping symphony of complicated emotions revolving around a terrible, tragic situation that seems like a well of hurt and pain until in climbs it’s way out into a tenderly heartfelt, incredibly life affirming resolution that never dips into half assed melodrama and feels earned and appropriate. The film casts such a powerful spell that it briefly changed the concept of time for me; Upon arriving near the end, I felt as if years had actually passed for me in theatre since I embarked on the film’s journey. The camera, script and actors kept me so intimately close to the characters for the duration of the piece and made me love and care for them so much that it brought me right into their timeline with an intimacy that rarely happens for me in cinema. Now on to the actors. What brave, compelling work from every single performer on screen, right down to the bit parts. Every role castes with a sharp eye for detail and reverent contemplation of who is right for what, creating a roster of heavy hitters and up and comers to be reckoned with. Brie Larson gives a beyond award worthy turn as Joy, a girl who was kidnapped at a young age and held captive by a horrible man (Sean Bridgers, displaying smouldering volatility in terrifying proportions) who impregnates her. She raises the child in the dour, tiny garden shed he keeps her in. Faced with the unthinkable task of creating a nurturing environment for her little one, she tells him that the shed is ‘Room’, their kingdom, and that the people he sees on their little TV are fake, imparting that they and their captor are the only real ones and there is no outside world. This reminds just how mouldable our minds are when we are small, and the film beautifully explores the psychological ramifications of how we raise our young, how nature vs. nurture comes into play in startling ways during the darkest of times, and the decisions we are forced to make on our own to ensure that our children are safe, even when things have gone beyond wrong, as they have for the poor girl. Old Nick, as she nicknames their captor, rapes her every few days, and treats the two of them like animals. Her son Jack reaches an age where escape becomes vital in his mothers eyes, and she takes her chance, orchestrating a harebrained ditch effort to break free, which is my favourite sequence of the film. It’s also one of the most tension filled, seat gripping scenes I’ve ever seen, as the character buildup has set our personal stakes epically high, which co,vines with the excellent set up makes for a clammy nightmare of an escape. The director makes the fascinating choice not to us any music at all until they reach freedom, which I noted. As soon as they are out, I let out a cathartic, audible sigh of relief, as the dank hell they undeservedly spent almost a decade in gives way to a vibrant, strange new world for little Jack. The camera takes his perspective and pores over every aspect of the outside realm with the patience and curiosity it takes to place us in his psyche, a child viewing the world in its entirety and true form for the very first time, essentially a second birth, a theme which the film handles marvellously. I must speak about Jacob Tremblay, a Vancouver native who plays Jack and gives the most soul wrenching performance I’ve ever seen from a child actor. The levels of sheer intuition and innocent truth he infuses in his work at such a young age are just unbelievable, and he should be in the riding for Oscar gold as well. Larson and him have uncanny chemistry, the love shown in the early scenes a blooming Rose of hope that fends off the looming darkness they dwell in, which is tested by the inevitable complications they face upon entering the real world once again. Larson burst onto the scene with 21 Jump Street and Don Jon, fun but inconsequential fluff. Here she shows us that she means business, and wants to tell stories that are important, and show audiences what it means to be human through her work. I look forward to where this extraordinary girl takes us in her next cinematic journey. Joan Allen makes subtly heartbreaking work as Joy’s mother, William H. Macy is briefly present as her Dad, Tom McCamus makes compassionate work of her stepdad and like I said, everyone else is superb, right down to the day players. I was crippled by emotion and raw with nerve jangling suspense after this one, exiting the theatre soaring on the high I eternally strive for in my cinematic adventures. The fact that only one theatre in Vancouver is playing this one is an affront to the universe. Get down to Tinseltown and see this one before it’s gone. You’ll thank me.