Reverb (Film Review)

ReverbImg2Reverb, a film directed Samantha Paradise, follows the story of a young woman, Helia, getting over a seemingly harsh break-up. If that makes this sound like a touching drama, then you’d be mistaken. This is a thriller/horror in every sense of the term as Helia’s ex, nicknamed Cupcake, can’t seem to leave things be, stalking her in her own house.

Many of the shots in the film are beautifully done, the sunrise shots and the nighttime shots are some of the highlights. They really used the dynamic lighting to their advantage. The contrast from light and darkness works out very well in these scenes. That being said, many of the daytime shots could have been better. The kitchen shots and some of the living room shots have flat lighting, which leaves the shot toneless, making it harder for the actor’s emotion to fully come through in a typical shot. It’s not the biggest flaw that could happen, but it might be the most glaring in this 15 minute short.

ReverbImg1The acting in this film is quite good, it has some flaws with delivery, but it is very good considering the majority of it is just Amy Frear. Frear lets the film rest squarely on her shoulders and does so quite well. The only other performance is from Brian Dunn, who has decent chemistry with Frear. The run-time is perfect, but the chemistry between the two could have used more time to blossom. It’s a common dilemma, let the movie run over what it should and build better relationships between characters or keep it short to the benefit of the film as a whole. The latter option did work out great here, but it could have been great to see some more interaction. Ugh, dilemma, dilemma.

The set design and costumes were great. The majority of the short has Frear in a tank top, frilly shorts and bunny slippers. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but funny in the sense that there’s a lot of chaos going on around her. The house looks like it is lived in by a young woman, which builds the realism for the film.

The short isn’t filled with unnecessary jump scares but uses sounds and music to build the tension, which is makes it scarier since the brain starts making up what possibly will happen next. The story is semi-predictable, but well done in the fifteen minute time frame. From beginning to end the short is quite good and it doesn’t dip in the 15 or so minutes. One of the biggest strengths of the film is that it feels like a snippet of Helia’s life. She clearly had done things before and the possibilities of the future are endless. This is a self contained story but the characters have a history.

Consensus: When watching short films there is never a guarantee if the 10 or so minutes is going to be good, but from the first couple of shots it is clear that Reverb is a step ahead of the run of the mill short horror film, and that’s what helps make this film succeed. It not a slam dunk, but a polished, well done film worth watching.

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Top 5 Tuesday: Favorite Childhood Movies

Hey everyone, today marks the start up of college once again. I’ve sort of been falling behind in preparation for classes, but I will not fall behind on Top 5 Tuesdays. So here is the list of my favorite movies from when I was a child, note that these are not necessarily child friendly movies.

5. Batman Forever

I’ve always loved superhero movies, and while Batman Forever still holds a special spot in my heart, it’s not a good movie. It’s great compared to Batman & Robin, but still no where near the Keaton Batman. I personally like that Batman more than Forever, but this is me trying to think in my childhood mindset. I loved the zany Riddler and the more comedic Two-face, but they didn’t age too well.

4. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Easily one of the best Jim Carrey performances. He’s funny, quotable and did I say funny? This isn’t one of my favorites anymore, but I still love it more than most modern comedy films. The sequel doesn’t hold a candle, but Ace Ventura is definitely a must see film for comedy lovers. Laces Out!

3. The Matrix

It’s hard to believe that I quite young when this movie came out. It was a revolutionary film that blew my small mind as a child. I pretty much watched it once a week on VHS when I was a child. It was probably the best movie from my childhood, but oddly it wasn’t my favorite.

2. Mystery Men

Mystery_Men_film_posterI loved superhero films growing up (I still do, but who doesn’t). Mystery Men is sort of a superhero film, but it is crazy and hilarious. Ben Stiller, Paul Ruebens and William H. Macy made my younger self laugh like a never before. I watched the movie pretty much every day and could quote the movie like an expert. It had flashy effects for the time, flashier than what I had seen at least. It had everything my little brain could ever want.

1. The Mask

Jim Carrey, man, he gets me every time. I loved this movie just a slight bit more than Mystery Men and I literally watched this movie daily as a kid. Now looking back, there were a lot of jokes that went straight over my head, but that just makes rewatching it now even more fun. Who would have thought my favorite childhood movie had condom jokes.

The Equalizer Film Review (2014)

The_Equalizer_posterWhen this movie came out, it looked quite promising. Denzel Washington and action seem to go hand in hand, which is strange since Washington is nothing like the run of the mill action star. The man has been nominated for six Academy Awards with a wide range of performances and he is convincing in each and every one. Now, I knew getting into this that it wouldn’t be an Oscar worthy film, but it sounded promising. So to sum things up, I was quite excited when this came in the mail the other day.

The film starts slowly, showing Washington and his relationships with his co-worker and a young girl prostitute. These part set Washington apart from the average action star as he’s able to convince the viewer that he truly cares for the people around him, which makes his jump to action seem reasonable. Once the movie’s violence starts, it never really stops. The action sequences are well done, the shots are beautifully done and the tone is definitely strong in this.

The most surprising thing is that a movie dealing with prostitution and many other sex crimes has no nudity. It helps that the main characters friend is an underage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and all the other prostitutes are very limited in screen time. It just feels like every R-rated action movie nowadays has gratuitous nudity, so it was welcome that this one did not when they could have found 100 opportunities to do so.

At a glance, this is a near perfect action movie. It has creative deaths, a strong tone and Denzel Washington in front of the camera. It’s biggest issue is that when the action picks up, the substance of the characters drops in quality. Washington is still great, but not as great. The bad guys start feeling like caricatures and while the beginning did a great job establishing the lead, the supporting cast didn’t get enough time to establish themselves. The question of if and when they’ll be put in danger doesn’t matter so much because they’re not that important to the viewer.

Despite that issue, the film is still incredibly fun and action packed. It’s hard to deny that Denzel Washington is an incredibly talented actor and is able to submerge in a wide range of roles. This is definitely one of the best action movies in recent memory and worth a watch if action is your forte.

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Frank (Film Review)

Frank_movie_posterFrank, starring Michael Fassbender, is one of those movies from last year that I wanted to see immediately after hearing about it. Sadly, I had to wait until Netflix came along and put it on their streaming website, which is one of the many reasons I love Netflix. Now, as I started to watch the movie, I realized that other than knowing the film was about an eccentric musician who always wears a fake head, I knew nothing about the film. Despite not knowing anything, the film had built incredibly high expectations in my eyes and it was going to be tough to top them. So did it?

Now, first things first, the film follows Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), an aspiring musician who can’t seem to write any music. He gets an opportunity to fill in for a band’s keyboardist after the previous guy goes crazy and soon finds himself in the middle of no where trying to record the band’s album with them. Fassbender plays Frank, the dude in the fake head and Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Clara, who is more or less the antagonist of the film’s main character Jon. Many troubles arise, changing how Jon sees the world and the people around him, that’s me trying my hardest not to spoil anything.

The movie is incredibly fun at times and incredibly depressing at others. It’s a great mix and ends in a fairly unpredictable way, not super crazy, but good nonetheless. I loved the performances, especially by Gleeson and Fassbender. Gyllenhaal was also very good and helped to add another dynamic to the film. I felt like in the beginning that her role could have been cast by any actress, but towards the end it made sense why she was cast. There were other actors in smaller roles and they too did a great job.

Some people might not like how the film’s main character uses twitter and YouTube, but I didn’t seem to mind it. It added to the realism since pretty much everyone I know uses twitter and/or YouTube. It didn’t feel excessive in my opinion and also stayed true to how people really act when they’re on social media.  The film has minor nudity, with a man’s buttocks seen briefly and if you look hard enough you might be able to see a breast through murky water. The main reason the film is rated R is that there are quite a few F-bombs.

I honestly can’t find anything to hate about this film, it was great on all fronts and lived up greatly to my expectations. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I might have been one of my favorite films of 2014.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014 Film Review)

Teenage_Mutant_Ninja_Turtles_film_July_2014_posterThis film has been reviewed by the best of them, so I’ll try to keep mine short. The film has a pretty generic story, involving the turtles coming past their issues with one another, working alongside April O’Neil and company to fight a common foe that changed all their lives. It’s a tale of revenge, but mostly of tale of sub par CGI. The story is pretty generic, but Summer blockbusters are known for light storylines and heavy action.

While the film does have a heaping helping of action, it often times is just a blur of CGI. Compared to the older Ninja Turtles movies, the fighting is arguably better. It’s not a great sight, but better than dudes fighting in turtles costumes. The acting isn’t fantastic either, it’s not terrible, but it felt like people just acting for a pay check. The turtle voices and personalities weren’t terrible, but Johnny Knoxville seems a little old to be voicing a teenage turtle. I love Knoxville, but they probably could have done some better casting.

Like I said, I’ll keep this review short. It wasn’t as bad as some people have said, but it has nothing amazing to set it apart from all the other CGI filled movies.

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Nymphomaniac Volume I (Director’s Cut Review)

Nymphomaniac_posterWow. What a movie. I’ve never seen a Lars von Trier film before and I’m not sure if this was the best or worst movie to start with. Nymphomaniac has pretty much a story in a story, where a woman tells a man who found her beaten and bloody in the streets about her life story, mostly involving sex. The stories range from innocent self exploration all the way too her engaging in sexual acts with different men in a short period of time. She has other tales to tell, involving her loving father and shrewish mother, but the majority of the film follows sex.

The cast in the film is pretty phenomenal, with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Shia LaBeouf, Stacy Martin and Stellan Skarsgard having the strongest roles. The biggest surprise, performance wise was Christian Slater’s role as the lead character’s father. I’ve only ever been impressed by Slater in True Romance, but he offered up an amazing role that was complex. Gainsbourg and Martin play the same character, Joe, and spend most of the film in differing stages of undress. Their performances were both great, but Martin probably shined a little brighter since most of the stories involved Joe at Martin’s age. Shia LaBeouf was good, he was played a character with quite a bit of depth, but was mostly a jerk the whole way through. Skarsgard was also phenomenal and his defense of Gainsborg’s actions through the course of the film is at times comical. Despite his age, he seems to act with a boyish wonder to his eyes, it’s truly captivating.

The subject matter should probably be discussed, yes, there is a lot of nudity in this film, especially the uncut version. There are graphic shots of genitals, breasts, most sex acts and a whole lot of moaning. The film is not a porno, it’s nudity is closely tied with the story and it’s not shown as some sort of gratification. The subject matter is far too intense, despite its occasionally casual and comedic tone. It deals with death, pain and an absence of love. This being the director’s cut, it is filled with potentially more sex scenes, more nudity and more story. I’m not quite sure since I haven’t seen the theatrical cut yet. It’s quite a long watch, but at the end of the film I felt like it was worth it.

Overall, I can’t recommend this to everyone, but it was a great enough watch in my opinion.

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HULLY GULLY (Film Review)

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HULLY GULLY, a film by director Pablo D’Stair, takes a look at a normal, everyday couple and the examines their relationship. The representation of a modern couple is pretty common, but with D’Stair’s style, it comes out different than the run of the mill films that are commonplace. Continue reading

Scrooged (Film Review)

Scrooged_film_posterAh, good old Scrooged, aka Bill Murray’s Christmas movie. There is nothing in this world like Scrooged, obviously it’s an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, but it does so in a way that hadn’t really been done before or since. The film follows Frank Cross, a TV executive that cares so little for his employees that he will fire them in an instant. He hates Christmas and spending time with his brother. It looks as if he will forever be this way until he is visited one night by the ghost of his mentor telling him to change his ways. From there he interacts with the three ghosts of past, present and future.

The movie is hilarious, with many nearly all the jokes still landing after the 20+ years it’s been out. Many of the set pieces and references are a bit old, but the comedy is still very much intact. It also has more heart than imagined. The cast is fantastic, with small roles from Bill Murray’s brothers and a few big names sprinkled throughout. Bill Murray is strong in his role as Frank Cross and Bobcat Goldthwait is just as great as a former employee who gets fired in the first few minutes of the movie. I feel like I’m in the minority in terms of my love of Bobcat Goldthwait’s comedy. He was hilarious in this and the Police Academy movies and directed great films like World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America. This might be my favorite role of his, it’s pretty minor and very dark, but it’s still hilarious.

The other supporting cast, like Karen Allen and John Glover are perfect in their roles. John Glover plays the corporate douche amazingly and Karen Allen plays Frank Cross’s former love with heart, making the viewer hope they can push their issues aside and be together. (Though, that is pretty predictable). Everything about this movie is wonderful, from the comedy to the acting. It’s silly, emotional and leaves you excited for the next viewing. For me, it’s a must watch every Christmas.

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Corky Romano (Film Review)

Corky_Romano_DVD_box_coverCorky Romano, man what a movie. Now you might be surprised when I say that I loved this as a kid. It was stupid and funny and really stupid. Despite all of that, it was one of my favorite movies growing up. I’m not a fan of Chris Kattan, but I found him hilarious in this. That being said, I remembered the jokes were pretty offensive and knew that it couldn’t hold up to my childhood memories. So here’s my review.

The film starts out with an FBI explanation of the main characters, informing the viewer of three of the main characters. There’s Pops and his two sons. The dossier informs you that one of the sons is illiterate and the other son is gay, both are subject to blinding rage if their secret is ever discussed or pressed. Then after some dialogue between the characters, we meet their third brother, Corky Romano, an aspiring veterinarian who is carefree as can be. He is tied into the families operation after they recruit him to infiltrate the FBI and destroy the evidence against the family. The movie makes so many dumb jokes in its 86 minute run time. There are insensitive jokes towards gays, the mentally challenged and just toward people as a whole. It also has Chris Kattan being a fool and his FBI co-workers thinking he’s a genius for it.

The film has a cameo by Zach Galifianakis, who wasn’t noteworthy back then but has become a big name nowadays. His role is minuscule, but he was still funny. Chris Penn was funny as the closeted brother the same goes for Peter Berg as the illiterate one. Despite being under 15 years old, the many of the jokes feel dated.

Now, this was rated as one of the worst movies between 2000-2009 and I can see why. Despite that, I can’t help but love it. It’s the perfect definition of a guilty pleasure, I know it’s bad but damn do I love it. It’s not perfect, but someone out there must like it too.

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Camp Takota (Film Review)

Camp_Takota_Official_Movie_PosterI should probably preface this by saying that had this not been on Netflix streaming, I probably would not have watched this. I have nothing against Grace Helbig, I find her hilarious but her plugs for the film seemed like I wouldn’t like it. After watching the first minute or two, I felt like my first impression was a correct one. Anyways, here the review.

So within the first minute or two of the film, I feared this would be one that I would turn off before the midway point. Grace Helbig is very stiff in her performance, especially in the beginning and the guy playing her fiance was just as stiff. When they were on-screen together, it felt very much like a student film. Once the Hart ladies get on-screen, it all gets a bit better. They seem to elevate one another when they’re together. There are still scenes between them that feel very amateur, but it’s leaps and bounds better than the beginning. The movie’s performance never fully escapes the student film feel, but it more often has glimpses of a good independent film. The three leads, while staples on Youtube, could all have a future in film with just a little improvement.

Mamrie_Hart_and_Grace_Helbig_at_No_Filter_in_December_2013The story is pretty interesting. The film follows Helbig’s character, Elise. Elise has a great life, she’s engaged and working a great job until her life takes a turn for the worse. She resorts to going to her childhood camp, Camp Takota to get away. The script has good jokes and an interesting enough plot. It’s not a slice of perfection, but it’s solid enough. It’s also great to see a movie with female protagonists written by women. Not only is Mamrie Hart the best performer in the movie, she is one of the reasons why the script and the dialogue was so strong. Sure, boiled down this is a story about relationships, but it’s also about moving on and being happy being yourself, which is an important message not always preached. Sure, there’s wrenches in the mix, but that’s a common trait in any film. One could argue that it wraps itself into a little bow a little too cleanly, but I’ll admit, I was a sucker for that ending.

Some of the biggest issues were with the visuals and the sound. Some shots had audio not lined up, mostly which reaction shots, which isn’t a bad thing normally but the angle of the shots they do made it very apparent. Other times the audio quality was sub par, ruining any sort of pretty visuals. There’s an over use of dissolves, which are often unneeded in between shots, also there are some scenes that end with a fade to black and no audio whatsoever. The loss of visuals is fine, but having some sort of music or natural sounds or room tones prevents the oddness from coming through. Without it, it feels like a really strange mistake.

It should be known that this film is more adult-oriented, which can be confusing by the title and the basic plot description. Dialogue doesn’t pull punches and the main subject matter is more for late teens to young adults. I’d say it’s more for young women, but men can also enjoy it since most of the humor isn’t gender-specific. It’s a fun watch, has good laughs and glimpses of some really good performances.

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Need for Speed (Film Review)

Need_For_Speed_posterAaron Paul, coming off of the hottest role of a lifetime, must be in high demand. Despite that thought, he still joined the cast of Need for Speed, who many considered to be a Fast and Furious knock-off. With that in mind, I came into this movie with very little in terms of expectations. No matter how much I loved Breaking Bad there was no way in my mind that this would successful let alone good. In terms of box office numbers, it didn’t fail completely, but I was still hesitant if this film could be good or not.

Now, from beginning to end Need for Speed is action-packed, but instead of action I mean cars. The acting is hot and cold, with Aaron Paul giving a great performance for the type of movie this is. Imogen Poots has great chemistry with Paul, which can further be seen in the film, A Long Way Down. They play off one another pretty well, that coupled with Rami Malek’s performance leads to a good base cast. Malek’s strongest scene involves him exposing his rear end in the workplace, it leads to laughs in a movie that normally takes itself too seriously. Dominic Cooper isn’t weak in his performance, but he did leave a lot to be desired. Michael Keaton gives a surprisingly good performance in this, which further makes me want to watch Birdman, a film that I have heard a million good things about. His performance is very similar to the character he played in Robocop. Mostly that both performances are the good kind of wild. Scott Mescudi also appears in the film and does not disappoint in his role. He’s silly, which lightens the mood from Aaron Paul’s revenge seeking antics.

The story is the weakest part of the movie. It’s your typical tale of revenge and the cars, which sounds like it could be a sequel to the Fast franchise. Writing for the characters could have been better, especially since most gave performances that were incredibly strong of a movie of this caliber. Writing is the most important aspect of a film, a decent actor can look extraordinary if their dialogue is refined to perfection. It would have been nice to see the script touched up even just a bit.

The stunt work was pretty impressive for what they did, though I’ve heard a lot was done digitally. Which I’m fine with, there have been a lot of recent stories of stuntmen dying from freak accidents. If you’re not 100% sure that everything is right, it might be best to do it in post. According to the actors and people behind the film, a lot of the film was stuntwork, but they did do extensive work to make sure everyone was safe. A balance of practical and post-work is great and safer. The shots used were beautifully shot of the Canon C500, a camera I could only dream of using.

Coming out of it, I find that Need for Speed is much more than just a Fast and Furious knock-off, it’s got great actors and a strong director behind it. All it needed was a script to make it the best possible. Sadly, a script is the most important thing, so it really drives the overall enjoyment of the film. It did exceed expectations, that’s for sure.

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22 Jump Street (Quick Review)

Sorry for the quick review, but it took me a while to write a review for this. I still know the score, but I can’t go as in depth as I’d like to.

22_Jump_Street_PosterPros

Great chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. They play off one another so well, it makes every scene they are in such a treat. The jokes made about it being the same thing were spot on and hilarious. The relationship between Hill and Cube’s characters are amazing in this installment, a definite step up from the previous movie. Also, the post credits sequence is a must watch. Despite how you feel about the movie as a whole, the post-credits will make you cry like a baby.

Cons

Since it is too much of the same, it might drive some people crazy. At first watch, I thought the movie was perfect, but as time went on I don’t know if I can watch it again and laugh at all the same points. I’ve seen 21 Jump Street 3 times and cried from laughing too damn hard.

Overall

A great movie, I’m not sure if it will live as long as 21 Jump Street, but it was a great movie and an amazing sequel nonetheless.

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The Sting and the Pride

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Watching a film is something so natural for me, I just sit back and relax. If a movie sucks, I make sure to voice my opinion, or write about it here, and when it’s great, I want to scream to the heavens that [insert any actor/actress here] is the best in the world at what they do. After working on a film and being a part of the crew and seeing it completely finished is a breathtaking experience. A group of people working as one forms a sort of bond, it’s hard to explain. Outside of set, you’re just friends but on set, you tend to work with a sort of cohesion that powers you and the film you’re working on forward. I had the good fortune of working with a wonderful director/writer and providing sound with a wonderful co-sound guy. The actors were fantastic to work with and gelled really well together on camera. It was the most fun I’ve had working either on stage or on set. There were no egos, we fixed our problems and we got along great. Sure, many of us went our separate ways after filming concluded, but I’ve worked with and am working with some of them on smaller or equally sized projects. As well as keeping in touch with them because, like I said, they’re a pleasure to be around. But, the strangest thing happened with this short film, we were able to show it in front of actual, living and breathing people.

At first that sounds great, you’ll get the opportunity to see people react in person to your short. Which is great, people will surely love or like it and you’ll be proud. But nothing in this world is universally loved and you might have the tragic experience of hearing someone tear your movie apart. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to hear that, but I might as well have. So first off, the response to the film I worked on was nothing but positive, with one exception. After the film concluded and the credits began to roll, I heard someone nearby say, “thank God, it’s over.”

Now in a normal situation, I would have thought nothing of it, but this was a short I had worked on for months, the longest I’ve really ever worked on anything. It became the crew’s baby and we cared for it to the best of our ability, so hearing even the slightest criticism hurt and I immediately knew why some filmmakers and actors refuse to watch with an audience. It’s scary.

Despite that pit in my stomach, I still loved every second of the screening. I feel it drove closer the concept that not everyone is going to love a film, no matter how technically or emotionally strong it might be. I’m not sure what the fate of the movie will be now, that’s up to the producer and director, but I would be excited to see it make it into some small market festivals and such, one can dream, can’t they?

So, my wonderful readers, have you guys ever experienced anything similar? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Brightest Star (Film Review)

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Heartbreak sucks and everybody knows that, so this film does a brilliant job recognizing that and making a film about heartbreak. The only issue is, every filmmaker knows the anguish of heartbreak. What makes a great movie involving this subject matter is setting itself apart from other films like it. This film follows an unnamed protagonist as he tries to get over his first heartbreak. He awakes in his apartment to and finds out that his girlfriend as rented out their apartment to a rambunctious couple who lets him crash there are he figures out his life. Through them he meets new people and changes many aspects to his life but still craves the idea of being with his first true love. Many elements in the story alone can be found in other films, but that doesn’t really matter if the performances are great and the film takes different directions that previous films had not yet taken. The film stays down its one particular path, occasionally veering off and leading the main character off to some new adventure, but nothing grand and no where near mind-blowing.

Brightest StarDespite that, the story is still enough to keep most watching, at least it was for me. I found enjoyment in Chris Lowell’s performance. While not necessarily nuanced, he breathed a good amount of life into a character that seemed to be poorly written in many aspects. The protagonist feels as if he’s supposed to be the loveable loser, but some of the dialogue makes him more as the guy that has no friends and is a little bit weird. Lowell overcame that for the most part and gave a certain draw to the character. The other central character is Rose McIver, who plays his former love, Charlotte Cates. The character seems to be more well thought-out than the protagonist, and McIver does a great job providing the audience with different ways to to feel about her. The only issue is that there is never a point in the film where you completely love her or entirely hate her. While this is more true to real life and how there are very few completely evil people out there, it makes the movie unable to drive out any strong emotion for the viewer. Most of the supporting roles are well written and well performed, but there were no show stealers either.

The film contains some beautiful shots and the scenery in the shots is just a beautiful. The different locations that the characters find themselves in, the lighting used to try to build up different emotions and the range from day to night all lead to a wonderfully shot movie, that is probably the highlight of the film. It’s a shame that the rest of the components couldn’t capitalize on it, but for director Maggie Kiley’s first feature, it’s something to be proud of.

Consensus: Definitely not a film for everyone, Brightest Star is a victim of weak writing and not enough great performances to save it. Beautifully shot and containing several great scenes, the film was missing a spark to make it truly wonderful.

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Fun Fact: First Rose McIver performance that I saw was in Power Rangers RPM, a shocking good series of a show I loved when I was a child.