The Innkeepers Blu-Ray Review

http://www.eonefilms.com

The Innkeepers Blu-Ray (2012)

Starring Sara Paxton, Pat Healy & Kelly McGillis

Written & Directed by Ti West

Yours truly, Dave Voigt here, also known as The Pop Culture Poet, has finally been acknowledged as an Entertainment Maven. I just want to quickly thank  Matt and his team for bringing me on board and am looking forward to what should be a fun ride!

After a successful run at on the festival circuit, including a stop at our very own Toronto After Dark festival last year, it’s time to dive into a fantastic ghost story out this week on DVD & Blu-Ray from our friends at eOne Films.  Let’s take a look at The Innkeepers.

http://www.eonefilms.com

The Innkeepers centers on the final days of operation of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, a quiet New England hotel with a history of paranormal activity which has seen better days.  On the hotel’s final weekend of operation, its final two employees, Luke and Claire (Healy and Paxton), are determined to find proof that ghosts are haunting the halls of this old hotel. Throw in the hotel’s final customer Leanne, a former actress turned spiritualist, and you’ve got a weekend that none of them will ever forget.

The expression of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ really comes to mind when watching The Innkeepers as it really is a masterful cinematic stroke of old school scares in assembling the classic ghost story.  Through a near perfect slow burn as the narrative built, writer/director Ti West hardly ever left the actual setting of the hotel, making the story more about what the audience thought was there than what we actually saw.  West didn’t rely on any lazy ‘shock & awe’ moments throughout the film to get the audience interested, but instead used a solid, logical narrative and fantastic character development to have the audience slowly creeping towards the edge of their seats as the tension built to a fevered pitch.  Rather than have it be overly convoluted and complex, he kept it simple and proved that quite often ‘less can be more’ when done right.

As an ensemble cast, everyone involved in this film worked quite well together.  Paxton and Healy had a great dynamic together and we as an audience are immediately invested in their relationship.  As they explore the dark bowels of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, we care about these two and it made the legitimately scary moments all that more effective.  Kelly McGillis as the former actress now new spiritualist dove into the role and actually embraced the self-deprecating humor that the part brought and it was a lot of fun to watch.

http://www.eonefilms.com

The sound and picture quality on the Blu-Ray were top notch, if you are sitting in a dark room you could easily scare yourself just watching it and the special features include a brief behind the scenes look at the film as well as two feature length commentary tracks; one with director Ti West and various members of the production team, as well as a second commentary track with Ti West and stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy as well as the theatrical trailer.

Ultimately The Innkeepers takes us back to a time that relied on storytelling and stylish filmmaking to elicit a scare or two out of its audience, rather than the more torture porn stylings of today.

4 out of 5 stars

The Innkeepers is widely available at retailers, and to rent at video stores across Toronto if you want to check it out.

Don’t forget to keep it locked right here at Entertainment Maven (like us on Facebook).

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One Last Glance at 2011 – Kirk Haviland’s Top 15 of the Year

Editor’s note: I’ve been meaning to open up Entertainment Maven to other contributors and give readers a little more bang for their…click, and I couldn’t think of a better guest writer than Kirk Haviland to contribute the first piece. I met Kirk this past year at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and was stunned at how knowledgeable he was when it came to talking about movies, not to mention he’s a pretty decent guy as well.

As a film blogger, it’s my responsibility to be as knowledgable as I can be about the subject matter I’m writing about. If I knew half as much as Kirk, I think I would be in pretty good shape.

Matt Hodgson

When I first sat down to start this list I figured it was going to be easy. I mean 2011 wasn’t an amazing year for film, right? It was when I started going through the list of releases that I realized something, there may have been A LOT of movies I disliked this year, but there were also a lot I loved. I have changed this list about a dozen times in ranking and will probably do so again, but these sit as my top 15 (yeah that’s right 15, never said editing was my strong point). Also, I must add that I have not seen some of the films most critics have listed in their top films lists, such as Melancholia, Tree of Life, The Artist and Take Shelter, so they won’t be included here. That said, here we go.

15- Super 8

A loving homage to the films I grew up on like ET and The Goonies. The kids in the film are all very well cast and deliver strong performances to drive the film, especially the very talented Elle Fanning. So maybe the monster plot line doesn’t work, still ranks as one the most fun movies I saw all year.

14- The Innkeepers

Saw this at TADFF back in October and instantly loved it’s throwback style and belief that simply building tension and creepiness is just as effective at scaring people as gore and jump scares. Sara Paxton is excellent in what I consider a star making role. Miss Paxton you will never get me to watch your cinematic gems like “Sydney White” or “Superhero Movie” but you are now on my radar. And maybe now I’ll watch Shark Night 3D…maybe. Opens in theaters in February, seek it out.

13 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The concluding chapter to the most successful film series of all time did not disappoint. Grand in scale with strong performances from the three leads, the filmmakers proved they were right to split the last film into two parts, as condensing the two films into one would have left much wanting.  Now whoever convinced the Twilight Filmmakers to do the same idea…(have not yet subjected myself to the torture that will be Breaking Dawn part 1, for full disclosure).

12- Martha Marcy May Marlene

The Exceptional performances from Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes drive this film about a cult devotee trying to re-conform to society after she escapes back to the real “real world”. Both shocking and subtle, the film unravels through flashbacks as we are told the story of her immersion into the cult, while we see her struggles after she leaves. Expect Olsen’s name to be a strong contender come awards season.

11- 50/50

This highly underrated/overlooked gem is an extremely effective look at coping with a serious issue like Cancer with humor, dignity, forgiveness and strength. Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen are pitch perfect here (this is a semi autobiographical film for Rogen as it’s based on the writer Wil Reiser’s  own bout with cancer. Rogen, friends with Reiser, then encouraged him to turn it into a screenplay).

This film also encouraged my ever growing “infatuation” with the lovely and talented Anna Kendrick.

10- Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Into the top 10  and I’m leading of with Apes?  Yes indeed, RotPotA (for short) was one of the biggest surprises and most effective films I saw all year. Andy Serkis’ Motion Capture performance as Caesar is fantastic and managed to make us feel more attached to the Apes than the humans in this picture. James Franco continues to make interesting choices in his career and this one works like Gangbusters. By Far  the best of the “Summer Blockbusters” this year.

9- The Descendants

When I first finished watching this film I was impressed with its tone and the superb acting of the two daughters in the film. I mean Clooney was great, but he usually is strong for the most part, right?  It wasn’t until days after and this film sticking with me that I realized that Clooney was perfectly cast in this and delivers one of his strongest and most complete performances of his career. Alexander Payne’s direction is solid once again, and a standout supporting cast,  this IS the best thing Matthew Lillard has ever done, help round out the story.  Will be a strong contender for the Oscar.

8- Attack The Block

Joe Cornish’s directorial debut about a juvenile street gang fighting aliens in London’s West End was the only film that left me visibly giddy as I left the theater. Where Super 8’s weakest point was the aliens, Attack the Block’s creatures are excellent and the reason why they are stalking the children throughout the movie unfolds as the movie progresses. The film also gets serious in the third act, showing that there are consequences to all actions and sometimes it’s the ones around you who pay the price.

7- Moneyball

A film about statistics, and it’s GOOD? That’s right, Moneyball delivers what is probably Jonah Hill’s finest performance and while Brad Pitt doesn’t completely disappear into the character of Billy Beane, his swagger does him well in the role. Moneyball is one of the most plain fun films of the year.

6- Hugo

Martin Scorsese’s film may be polarizing among critics, but I found it to be the best advertisement for 3D film making outside of Avatar. But where Avatar fails (script anyone?), Hugo does not. A perfectly crafted story of a orphan finding his way into the adventure of a lifetime. And getting to see George Melies’s “La voyage dans la Lune” in high def 3D doesn’t hurt either. A loving tribute to the earliest pioneers of film.

5- Tyrannosaur

Paddy Considine’s film contains my choice for best male performance of the year as well as best supporting female, with Peter Mullan’s brilliance on full display and Olivia Colman stealing scenes left and right. The film, which I saw at TIFF in September,  is a character piece as Mullan’s Joseph is the titular Tyrannosaur, a widower who leads a solitary life and likes it that way, until Coleman’s Hannah comes crashing in. This film deserves more attention as it gets slowly released in limited theaters this January.

4 – Some Guy Who Kills People

My biggest surprise of TADFF 2011 was Some Guy Who Kills People. Going into the fest I knew my friend Christian Burgess, a programmer at TAD, had been hyping this for a long time. The trailer left me underwhelmed, but the movie was FAR from underwhelming. Filled with humor and a lot of heart, this black comedy is one the most refreshing tales I have seen in a while. This was my favorite film of TAD, which is saying something as it was a VERY strong line up. Seek this film out, do whatever you can to see it, it’s worth the effort.

3 – Shame

Shame is one of those films it’s hard to say “I Love that movie” about because of how damn harsh and unrelenting it is. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are superb as a brother/sister dealing with the issues surrounding the addiction(s) they both try to cope with everyday and how it leaves them incapable of truly being emotionally invested in anyone. Powerful movie, but I’m not in a rush to see it again.

2 – Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

When I first heard that they were going to do this remake I was dismayed. I had watched the original Swedish films and was in awe of Noomi Rapace’s performance as the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander. Then they announced David Fincher as the director. Fincher manages to create a film with great depth and with a sense of dread hanging over most scenes. Daniel Craig is excellent, much better in the Mikael Blomkvist role than his Swedish counterpart, and the supporting cast superb. Rooney Mara does an amiable job filling the role of Lisbeth. I certainly hope the studio will back the two follow-up films with all the major players intact, including Fincher, as I feel the two novels can produce better films than what the Swedish films delivered. I am almost always against remaking films just so the north american audiences don’t have to read subtitles, but in this case the film is an achievement on its own.

And finally at number 1

1- DRIVE

No other film this year has stayed with me longer and made me keep going back to it than Drive. Be it the stoic lead performance of Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan stealing scenes in yet another film this year,  the phenomenal supporting cast with the likes of Albert Brooks, Ron Pearlman and Bryan Cranston, or the score which has been in regular rotation on my I-Pod since. Nicolas Winding Refn’s film delivers in so many ways. Is it violent? Yes. Does it earn the violence? Also a yes. By the time the infamous elevator sequence occurs you’re totally invested in Gosling’s character’s journey and quest for redemption. The Blu Ray, when released, will be a welcome addition to my shelf.

Rarely do you do these lists without leaving off other deserving films and this list is no exception.  Honorable Mentions go to :

The Raid (TIFF 2011) – brilliant action film, Great ZomComs Juan of the Dead, and TAD’s Deadheads. Also from TAD the gripping Lonely Place to Die and brilliantly understated Midnight Son. Jason Eisner’s awesome Hobo with a Shotgun. Jason Reitman’s Young Adult and my favorite documentary this year Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest.

Kirk Haviland

My Ridiculously Late Best of 2011 List – Theatrical releases and festival fare

Most people around me are living in the future. Everything is 2012 this, 2012 that, but I’m still focusing on 2011. I entered the world of film reviewing in July 2011, and as a result I’ve been playing catchup for the entire year. December was brutal, and it is only now that I feel I have seen enough of what 2011 had to offer to actually make a ‘best films of the year’ list. Since many people have not had a chance to see the films offered at the festivals in 2011, I have taken the privilege of separating my top 20 into the top 10 theatrical releases and the top 10 festival films. I hope you enjoy my lists, and if you agree or disagree then let me know!

On with the show.

TOP 10 THEATRICAL RELEASES

10. Hanna

9. The Illusionist

8. Troll Hunter

7. Attack the Block

6. The Artist

5. Midnight in Paris

4. Drive

3. Café de Flore

2. 50/50

1. Take Shelter

TOP 10 FESTIVAL FILMS

10. You’re Next

9. The Divide

8. A Lonely Place to Die

7. Sleepless Night

6. The Innkeepers

5. A Letter to Momo

4. Kill List

3. Some Guy Who Kills People

2. Redline

1. The Raid

 

Toronto After Dark Lineup Announced – 3 weeks until showtime!

Image from http://torontoafterdark.com/2011/

Showtimes and trailer links below!

It’s almost time for Toronto to usher in the Halloween season with the Toronto After Dark (TAD) Film Festival, eight nights of horror, sci-fi, action and cult movies. This the perfect type of festival for someone like me, as my interest in film lies with the mysterious and the fantastic. After the first wave of TAD films were announced, it became apparent that I would be spending a lot of time at the TAD venue, the Toronto Underground Cinema. Now that the complete lineup has been announced, I’ll just have to see if they have a room I can rent for eight nights.

The lineup for TAD looks amazing, and features a variety of ravenous undead, lonely astronauts, thirsty vampires, unfathomable futures, menacing ghosts, otherworldly secrets and pile-driving monsters, but this is just scratching the surface. Over the years TAD has garnered a reputation for their professionalism, and dedication to screening a wide variety of the best genre films from all over the world. This year will be no exception, and may just be the most exciting TAD yet!

Father’s Day (the latest from notorious Troma Entertainment, Inc.), VS (a bloody battle between four kidnapped superheros and their arch nemesis) and War of the Dead (a WWII zombie-action film out of Lithuania) make up the world premiere lineup. Highly anticipated festival circuit films include The Woman, which has been shocking audiences for a while now (check out this clip of a guy freaking out during a screening at Sundance), and The Innkeepers, the latest from Ti West, director of the creepy The House of the Devil.

In addition to these big name genre films are some that may not have as much hype, but still have me anxious for the festival to start.

The Corridor – A group of friends travel to a cabin for one last getaway before jobs, marriages, etc. make it impossible for them to do it again. The getaway takes an unexpected turn when the friends discover a spectral hallway in the middle of the woods. The corridor seems to be a harbinger of things to come and sparks negative emotions in the hearts of the men. If they hope to survive the weekend, they must face not only the corridor, but each other.

A Lonely Place to Die – From the UK comes a thrilling mountain chase film, in which a group of hikers discover a young girl trapped in the mountains. The girl turns out to be a kidnapping victim, and the hikers attempt to bring the her to safety but are tracked and attacked by the her kidnappers at every twist and turn. This film has been getting fabulous reviews and apparently must be seen on the bigscreen.

The Divide – The end of the world starts to occur just outside the windows of a towering apartment building. The tenants stampede to the secure basement in hopes of surviving the apocalypse, however, the first few to make it slam the door on the rest. The surviving group must now survive each other, as cabin fever, claustrophobia and the possibility of being the last surviving members of the human race begin to weigh heavily on the cellar’s new inhabitants. From Xavier Gens, the director of the graphic Frontier(s). Sci-fi or not, this one is probably not for the squeamish.

Redline (animated) – This animated film out of Japan is supposed to be Death Race 2000 on steroids. The plot is about a deadly intergalactic race that happens every five years, and apparently has some stellar sound effects. Let’s hope the TAD crew cranks the volume for this one!

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (The official schedule will be announced on the 4th, when single tickets go on sale. I’m not sure when VS and War of the Dead will screen)

Click on a title to be directed to the trailer.

Thursday, October 20th

7pm – Monster Brawl

Friday, October 21st

7pm – Exit Humanity

9:45pm – Father’s Day

Saturday, October 22nd

4:15pm – Redline

7:00pm – DeadHeads

9:45pm – War of the Dead

Sunday, October 23rd

1:30pm – Some Guy Who Kills People

4:15pm – Love

7:00pm – The Theatre Bizarre

9:45pm – Midnight Son

Monday, October 24th

7:00pm – Absentia

9:45pm – A Lonely Place to Die

Tuesday, October 25th

7:00pm – The Divide

9:45pm – Manborg

Wednesday, October 26th

7:00pm – The Corridor

9:35pm – VS

Thursday, October 27th

7:00pm – The Woman

9:45pm – The Innkeepers (no trailer yet)

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