Krampus: The Reckoning and Deep Dark - Reviews


Review - Rusty Ryan

SynopsisZoe, a strange child has a not so imaginary friend the Krampus who is the dark companion of St. Nicholas.

ReviewThis upcoming holiday just might be the season of Krampus. You are familiar with Krampus, right?  If not, here goes: Krampus is the bad demonic version of Santa. Santa rewards the nice people with presents and gives the bad ones coal. Krampus pretty much ignores the good ones and goes straight to killing the bad ones.

There have actually been a few Krampus-themed features over the years including Krampus - The Christmas Devil, Night of the Krampus and Santa Krampus. Soon theaters will be showing a big budget Hollywood horror/comedy called Krampus. And finally, Krampus just might get his due. However, this is not that movie!

Released this year, Krampus: The Reckoning is a horror movie that seems to wear it’s low, low budget like a badge of honor. It is directed and co-written by Robert Conway. It revolves around a detached little girl named Zoe who can magically conjure up her friend the Krampus to torture and burn anyone that she doesn’t like. 

The rest of the story is told with unflinching miscues in lighting, continuity, dialogue, focus and acting. It does hold your attention in a “train-wreck” sort of way. The moments when Krampus extracts his revenge are very uneven. Krampus shows up, the next moment the victim is covered in blood, then goes up in flame. During this, the obviously computer animated monster that stares and growls. The editing will have you scratching your head. Think Sci-Fi Network, then turn it down a few notches.

The lead actress playing Zoe’s Doctor is Monica Engesser. She is easily the most accomplished performer in the film. Unfortunately she is surrounded by very uneven production values, boring dialogue, and a “surprise” ending that is just not fleshed out.

Krampus: The Reckoning contains some harsh language, two graphic sex scenes and some bloody murders that are more silly than scary. If you really want to get into the Krampus Holiday Season, I recommend holding out for the December 4th theatrical release of the big budget Krampus starring Toni Collette. 



Review - Rusty Ryan

SynopsisA failed sculptor discovers a strange, talking hole in the wall. It has the power to fulfill his wildest dreams...and become his worst nightmare.

Review“Deep Dark” is an initially interesting horror story about a failed sculptor that discovers a hole in his apartment wall. This is no ordinary hole. It talks, has feelings and has the power to fulfill his dreams of being a successful artist. But this is a horror film, so you already know this can never work out well for our hero.

The film is directed and co-written by Michael Madadlia. It is obviously shot on a limited budget but Madadlia does manage to squeeze out every dollar. Unfortunately it seems the dollars ran out before his movie did.

The story walks a fine line of being original but at he same time clearly brings up memories of 2013’s “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix. “Deep Dark” does have a very demented slant: Just like Phoenix’s character in “Her”, Hermann (Sean McGrath) develops an emotional relationship with the talking hole (voiced by Denise Poirier). Quickly into the “relationship” the hole becomes very jealous and wants more from the sculptor. The hole reacts to our hero’s touch and soon demands that their relationship be consummated. Use your imagination for that one! Their relationship quickly spirals into a violent and dangerous place.

As previously stated, “Deep Dark” starts as a great premise but just does not complete any plot strand. Major holes develop and other story lines are left hanging. One example: midway into the film, the nosey landlord enters the apartment, peeks into the hole and gets her eye bitten by the hole. She runs out screaming and wounded. We never see her again. Did she just go home, put on some Bactine and forget the fact that her tenant has something in his apartment that just took out her eye? Seriously, we never see her again.

The ending is the same way. It just seems unfinished and confusing. “Deep Dark” started with promise but quickly goes downhill. Expect some gore and the aforementioned “sex” scene. Some of the more interesting characters are left dangling. Definitely one for those who have “seen it all”, otherwise I would recommend renting another apartment.


An interview with Juliet Stevenson for THE LETTERS

Juliet Stevenson takes on the role of Mother Teresa in the new drama, THE LETTERS. I had a chance to speak with her over the phone from NY about the role.

**In theaters December 4th 2015**

My review of THE LETTERS 

SynopsisA drama that explores the life of Mother Teresa through letters she wrote to her longtime friend and spiritual advisor, Father Celeste van Exem over a nearly 50-year period.


Matt Mungle:  Hi Juliet, how are you?

Juliet Stevenson: I'm well, how are you? 

MM: I'm doing great, thanks. I understand that you're in New York which is a great place to spend the Holidays. Is there a special place that's close to your heart to spend this time of year?

Juliet Stevenson: Back in England we have a little cottage on the east coast in East Anglia, which is surrounded by water, and I guess that's my special place. We go there with the kids at Christmas and whenever we can, and it's just like sky and water and light and birds; that's probably my special place. On the other end of the spectrum I do love New York. It's always a treat coming here.

MM: I can imagine that the times you do get away for a holiday is probably good, because it seems like you're really busy most of the time. Do you thrive on that busyness of a schedule, always having a project coming and looming? Is that what keeps you going? 

JS: That's a really good question, I think I do. We've got 4 kids at home between us, it's quite a busy house as well. I think I do like to be busy. When I'm not, there's plenty of other things I like getting involved with, although when it stops I always rather love it, yeah. 

MM: In the midst of this busyness, here we have this project, The Letters, which we're talking about now, how did that end up in front of you with everything else? What about this caught your eye? Did you seek it out, or did somebody seek you out? How did those paths cross?

JS: Somebody sought me out, the director, William Riead, obviously through my agents. I truly, truly thought he got the wrong person. They said, "There's a guy who has offered you Mother Teresa." I said, "Well, he's got to have made a mistake. It's obviously not me. He's looking for somebody else." He rang me at home and I said, "Listen, I'm 5'8", she's 5'1". I’m strongly built and she was tiny and I'm not a Catholic. Are you sure you want to go ahead with this?" He said, "Absolutely. Absolutely." I was thrilled in a way because she is so different from me. She's such a far reach for me to get to. It was the most wonderful challenge. I think that's what you want. What you want is stuff that really turns you inside out. That's what I'm always looking for is the next job, something that's unnerving or tricky or challenging or that you're a bit scared of. Because otherwise as an actor you get boring. There's a great danger you'll get boring. If you go on playing the same kind of role similar to you it's so dull. I loved having this transformation.

MM: Did he ever share with you, even in just passing, what it was about you that did catch his eye? Because you say you're so different and all these elements, was there something that came out later?

JS: You know, I never understood why he asked me. He said it was his wife's idea. I don't know what he'd seen or why but I'm glad he did because it was an amazing experience going to India, which I'd never been to and just exploring her really in all her complexity.

MM: Watching the film, it's almost like there was a transformation and I wanted to talk a little bit about how you fleshed her out because there were certain things about your posture and even your facial expressions as you're dealing with these other young women and the compassion that's there but is also an inner strength of faith even struggling through the doubts that we see come out in the movie. There're all these complexities about her that's played out even in a single facial expression. Kind of just talk a little bit about how you fleshed her out that way.

JS: Well I fleshed her out by watching absolutely mountains of documentary footage, interviews with her. I locked myself in a room at the British Film Institute where they have the records of everything. I just said, "Find me everything on Mother Teresa that you've got." Then you sit in the middle of the room in the dark and watch and watch. I had loads of taped interviews with her too on audio. All the time I was filming, in my lunch breaks and everything I would just listen to her on my little MP3 player, my ear plugs. I wanted to immerse myself in, first of all, the way she spoke the strange accent that was a mixture of Albanian, English, Hindi and then her body language as you said it was very ... It struck me watching her body moving, watching her walk and move that she had this strange body shape, this concave chest and lots of tension in the neck and shoulders. Her shoulders were high always and then these huge hands for somebody so little. They were always touching people, stroking them, patting them, patting their faces, very tactile. Which for a woman who is living a celibate life and giving her body to herself was interesting. 
When you're inside that body shape and that weird accent it starts to tell you things, but I also read a lot. I read stuff about her. I read interviews with her. I read stuff she'd written. I went to talk to nuns. I did work quite hard. There are still 1 or 2 branches of her order that are dotted around London doing work with the poor and destitute in different parts of London so I went and talked to a bunch of very elderly nuns who still work in her order and some of them had worked with her in Calcutta who could tell me personal stories about her.

MM: We all know so much about her, or think we do, and then watching this what struck me is the focus and agenda of compassion over conversion that she had, that kindness was to rule out over everything. Not saying that you're not a kind person in general but coming out of this on the other side do you look at compassion and kindness a little bit differently when you come across certain people? Did it change you in any way in that form?

JS: I think the one place I could connect with her, the one, perhaps, overlap we might have is that in the sense that I am a bit of a pushover for anybody who's in a bad way. I did quite a lot of charity stuff at home and especially with refugees and migrants and very unfashionable end of the charity radar, as it were. I think that was easy to connect with in her and unlike most of us she rolled up her sleeves and devoted her whole life to it. I mean listen, the times we're living in, especially coming from Europe you know where the borders of Europe are clogged with desperate people living outdoors with babies and infants and old people and living in the wet and the cold and desperately trying to find somewhere safe to live and who will have them. Never has there been more need for the sort of compassion that Mother Teresa ... It was the fuel of her life wasn't it? The gasoline of her life was this compassion and we could do with a bit more of that.

MM: I think so, and I think we just sort of answered one of the questions we had earlier. Maybe that was why you were perfect for this role. Maybe it was that connection of kindness and maybe there was something in that nature was just supposed to be because it was a fabulous role. You did a marvelous job, an award worthy role for sure. I really appreciate you spending some time with us to chat about that and best of luck with the film releasing this week.

JS: Oh, thanks, Matt. It was lovely to talk to you


Youth - Review

R  |  118 min  |  Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters December 4th 2015**

SynopsisA retired orchestra conductor is on holiday with his daughter and his film director best friend in the Alps when he receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip's birthday.

ReviewThere is something immensely special about Paolo Sorrentino's script for YOUTH. It is touching, whimsical, and engages emotions on several layers. He then takes the written word and directs it to near perfection. This is a film that has to be embraced as a whole. To dissect it or try and explain every nuisance would take away the beauty. So just open your heart and mind and let the story sweep you away. 

The film centers around Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) a retired orchestra conductor vacationing at a fancy spa in the Alps. The rooms are full of famous movie makers, sports figures, and the upper crust of polite society. The people are quiet and respectful and each feels as if to make too much noise would be to spoil the serene surroundings. Fred's best friend Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is a filmmaker there polishing his latest script and musing over life's past with Fred. The two take long walks and talk about lost love's, regrets and accomplishments. The dialogues are not superficial or trite but rather they are rich in subtle wisdom and emotional anecdotes. 

Though these two are the central characters the movie is actually about us all. Whether you are young and diving full force into uncharted waters or nearing the end of your journey and looking at life in a reflective glass; there is something here to move you. Granted this film will be appreciated a tad more by older audiences due to the pacing and character arcs. Still it is not a stuffy walk down memory lane. The lacing of eccentric characters who move in and out of the story add a fanciful dance to the whimsy. It keeps you off balance just enough so that the powerful moments have a greater impact. 

The supporting cast of Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano fit wonderfully in the quiet atmosphere. Weisz plays Ballinger's daughter who is having some staggering moments of her own. They have never been very close and getting her dad to engage deeply with her has always been a struggle. Fred Ballinger gets a visit from the Queen's Emissary (Alex Macqueen) to try and talk him into making a special conducting appearance for Prince Phillip's Birthday bash. The Queen has asked that Ballinger lead an orchestra and renowned soprano in one of his most famous pieces. Fred denies the request and as the movie progresses his reasons become clearer. This decision is a critical arc in the story and one that is important to his and his daughters healing.

There are moments when Sorrentino will pull back the dialogue and allow the soundtrack to conduct the scene. Music is a powerful tool and the choices used here are as moving as any word. It makes the movie seem dreamlike. As if at any moment the characters would awaken from an invigorating sleep and audience would discover that they had been peaking in at the subconscious of those on screen.

YOUTH is rated R for graphic nudity, some sexuality, and language. There is nothing gratuitous or salacious about the content. The nudity and sexuality are handled and offered in a mature fashion not unlike a fine painting. It is certainly an adult film and not for kids. Those who follow the Oscar race and love a good award season drama should certainly keep this on their radar. I give it 4 out of 5 bike rides. Paolo Sorrentino has given us a superb film. 

90 Minutes in Heaven now on DVD

Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Universal
DVD Release Date: December 1, 2015
Run Time: 122 minutes

SynopsisDuring the 90 minutes he is declared dead after a traffic accident, Don Piper experiences love, joy and life like he’s never known. But when he finally wakes in the hospital, Heaven’s bliss is replaced by excruciating pain and emotional turmoil. With the support of his family and community, Don clings to his faith and fights to recover the life he’s lost. Featuring Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth, 90 Minutes in Heaven is an emotional and inspiring story of perseverance that will bring hope and encouragement to all who see it.

Available in time for the holiday season, 90 Minutes in Heaven is a gift of comfort, hope and encouragement for when we don’t have the right words to say.

Interview: I had a chance to chat with Don Piper about the film and below are some audio clips from our conversation.

1. - Were you part of the casting decisions and what are your thoughts on having Hayden Christensen play you? Did you spend much time together? AUDIO

2 - Often many liberties are taken between a book and the screenplay adaptation. Will readers of the book find it similar and were you happy with the outcome? AUDIO

3 - Many people will be skeptical of this story and even more so now due to other similar books being discovered as fabrications. How do you speak to that? AUDIO

4 - Why do you think that you were chosen to not only experience this but then be sent to live out the rest of your life here in an imperfect and often painful body? AUDIO


The Letters - Review

PG  |  114 min  |  Drama 
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters December 4th 2015**

SynopsisA drama that explores the life of Mother Teresa through letters she wrote to her longtime friend and spiritual advisor, Father Celeste van Exem over a nearly 50-year period. 

Review: There has been a lot written about Mother Teresa but THE LETTERS is the most intimate by far. Documentaries are able to lay out the facts and share actual footage but a drama allows the story to move and breath at a more gentle pace. 

The film starts with a committee discussing the canonization of Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson). There is concern about a group of letters written by her that tell of her struggles and moments of self doubt. Then begins the story of her journey from early teachings at a convent to her lifelong devotion to the poor of Calcutta. 

The intriguing part of The Letters is that it focuses a lot on the obstacles she overcame trying to follow her calling. Many may think it was a simple process. Here was this well respected teacher who decided to reach out and help the poor around her. Seems like the church and local governments would applaud her. But as with many worthwhile endeavors the path was not an easy one. Red tape and opposition from the Catholic Church was one of the biggest hurdles. It is encouraging to watch her face each one with the same outward unwavering faith and determination. All while inwardly questioning so much. 

Mother Teresa was not only an aide to the poor in India but an inspiration to all those around her. Many young women discovered a renewed passion and desire to serve under her wing. Her soft spoken demeanor and open heart was infectious. But what beats the loudest is her compassion for souls. Not to convert but to comfort. This is not a woman with an agenda or screaming a dogmatic rant. Her directive was love.

Stevenson is perfect in her portrayal of Mother Teresa. The way she carries herself both in body motions and soft facial expression encompasses the stature of this amazing woman. She delivers each line with the balance of conviction and determination. Even in her moments of doubt there is the underlying understanding that is not her will being carried out. 

The film is written and directed by William Riead who uses the streets of India as a canvas of despair. You can sense the isolation that Mother Teresa must have felt as she looked out of her convent windows to the people below. The set design and cinematography is a portal to a different time and place. This draws you into the story and solidifies the person of Mother Teresa. 

THE LETTERS is rated PG for thematic material including some images of human suffering. It is safe for the whole family but the story and dramatic material are intended for those older. Young viewers would certainly be encouraged and enlightened by the story but find the pacing and dialogue too slow. A must see for those who like to engage with non fictional characters. I give it 4 out of 5 pope mobiles. What I thought was going to be a regurgitation of everything I have seen and read in the past turned out to be a very thought proving and interesting story of a well known figure.