Things Heard and Seen: Mediocre Film, Bold Ending (Explained) – Netflix Review

Too long, too slow, but I appreciate a last-minute swing for the fences.


It’s the 1980s and Catherine Claire (Amanda Seyfried) moves to a large farmhouse with her husband George (James Norton) and daughter Franny (Ana Sophia Heger). She quickly discovers that there are a number of odd things about the house, including a Bible indicating the deaths of the previous owners, weird sounds and smells, and Franny reacting to a strange presence. George, whose new job at a local college prompted the move, starts to have issues with the department head, Floyd (F. Murray Abraham), and begins an affair with a student named Willis (Natalia Dyer). Catherine befriends one of George’s colleagues, Justine (Rhea Seehorn), and hires two locals, brothers Eddie and Cole (Alex Neustaedter and Jack Gore), to work on the property. It turns out Eddie and Cole’s father murdered their mother in the house. As George becomes progressively more erratic, Catherine becomes more suspicious of his behavior.

Suspicious window!


A family moves into a spooky house and the father slowly becomes more erratic as crazier and more blatantly supernatural things occur. If that sounds familiar, it’s because The Amityville Horror popularized the formula in the 70s and there are at least a dozen rip-offs of it every year since. This movie started off pretty well by setting the strange atmosphere of the house, but then it decided to just keep adding more subplots without really exploring the main elements deeply. Part of the key to suspense is the unknown and this film’s inability to allow us to just sit with the ambiguity for longer than 10 seconds hurt it immensely. It just makes it feel slow and predictable. 

That clock is very ’80s.

The performances were all solid as you would probably expect from the cast list. Amanda Seyfried is excellent as Catherine, someone whose faith in the supernatural conflicts directly with her husband. Of course, George’s insistence that nothing strange is happening is reminiscent of every father from every version of this story. Norton does a good job of keeping it ambiguous whether the house is making George get more and more erratic or if he’s just a bad person to begin with. F. Murray Abraham and Natalia Dyer are both excellent in helping keep their respective subplots interesting, but they don’t quite get enough time onscreen. 

Spooky stuff.

Overall, the movie’s just not worthwhile, although I will say that the ending, as explained below, does have a heck of a twist.


At the end of the movie, Catherine, having discovered that her husband is cheating on her and that he may have murdered his cousin. To cover up his affair with Willis, George attempts to kill Justine and puts her in a coma. He then finds out that Catherine is planning on taking Franny and running away, but then reveals he drugged her. He then kills her with an axe and sets up an alibi which, while the police don’t believe it, appears to work. However, Catherine’s soul merges with Ella, the woman who had previously been murdered in the house, and together they enter Justine’s body and wake her from her coma, allowing her to testify against George. George then takes a boat to flee, the same boat he murdered his cousin on, and a portal opens taking him presumably to hell. 

Also, the found jewelry might have enabled some stuff.

Like I said, that’s a bold way to end the movie. Not only does the main character get outsmarted and brutally murdered, but then it turns out that the power of the two wronged women allow them to get revenge together by awakening Justine. 

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Mank: Hollywood Loves Its Own Stories – Oscar Netflix Review

The story of the screenplay for the greatest American movie ever made.


It’s 1940 and Herman J. “Mank” Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) is recuperating from a broken leg when he is asked to write a screenplay for a film by Orson Welles (Tom Burke). Mank dictates the story of a newspaper magnate named Charles Foster Kane to his secretary Rita Alexander (Lily Collins). Periodically, the story cuts back to the 1930s when Mank and his brother Joe (Tom Pelphrey) were working for Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard) of MGM fame and Mank became an acquaintance of William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and his mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). While they start off as friends, Hearst’s actions, particularly towards Upton Sinclair (Bill Nye) and other liberal platforms, and Mank’s alcoholism lead to a slow and painful separation between the two and eventually to Mank writing a screenplay based on Hearst.

There’s a lot of suits and pointing.


Hollywood loves stories about Hollywood, particularly during one of their “golden ages.” This story is probably the peak of that, since it’s almost entirely about the inner workings of MGM during the 1930s and about the events that led to the writing of Citizen Kane, a film that consistently ranks as being among the best ever made. I’m going to be frank, I think that it’s only because of this self-obsession Hollywood has that this movie was nominated for Best Picture. Even in a year with relatively few releases like 2020, this still should not have been considered in competition for the best movie of the year. Particularly when things like Hamilton and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and even Soul were not given such an honor. 

I think people liked the Sorkin-esque walk-and-talks.

That’s not to say this isn’t a bad movie, but most of it feels like it’s based on gimmicks. The film is shot in black-and-white and the sound is edited so that it seems like it was made in 1940, just like Citizen Kane. A lot of people have the fake “Mid-Atlantic” accent that was so popular at the time for actors, even when they’re not acting. The flashbacks in the film are structured similarly to the film Citizen Kane, a thing which even the movie acknowledges can be hard to follow. They try to make up for it by having a number of titles on-screen which describe the time period and location, but I actually think that addition is an admission that they couldn’t figure out how to convey the passage of time without them. 

No, being the period where “everyone wore hats” does not clarify it.

The performances, though, are amazing. Naturally, Gary Oldman does a great job portraying Herman Mankiewicz, a man frequently stated to be one of the funniest men in the motion picture industry in the 1930s. He’s witty at all times, but deeply flawed, mostly by his alcoholism and his mistreatment of his wife. Amanda Seyfried gives a lot of depth to Marion Davies by making her more observant and smarter than she lets on, something that is probably more accurate than most of her portrayals as a drunk and a golddigger. Charles Dance, who can play a bad guy better than almost any living actor, really just lets the historical Hearst’s dickishness and pettiness seep through and do a lot of the heavy lifting until the third act, in which he takes it up a level. 

Remember when she was the ditz in Mean Girls? God, Amanda Seyfried is talented.

Overall, it’s a well-performed movie, but I think it would be considered mediocre if it weren’t for Hollywood’s lust for its own history.

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Jennifer’s Body: Diablo Cody Wrote This – 13 Reviews of Halloween

Seriously, this might be the most Diablo Cody movie that isn’t Juno.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Insecure high-schooler Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) is best friends with confident hot-girl Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) despite their differences, including that Jennifer hates Needy’s boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons). One night, Jennifer takes Needy to a concert at a local bar where Jennifer catches the eye of the lead singer, Nikolai (Adam Brody). A fire breaks out and kills a number of people in the bar, but Jennifer is taken away by the band, Low Shoulder, against Needy’s objections. Later that night, Jennifer returns, covered in blood and vomiting black bile. She seems okay the next day, but soon Needy begins to suspect that something evil has decided to take up residence in Jennifer’s body… oh, that’s why they call it that.

Trying to make Amanda Seyfried not hot is impossible, so they just go with “smart.”


This movie was Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman’s follow-up to Juno and, sadly, it bombed horribly. It’s not really hard to see why, honestly. Doing a horror/comedy is harder than it seems, because you have to embrace both film genres together, but it’s really hard to laugh during a gory scene even if the joke is funny. It requires a great sense of timing in switching genres in both the script and the direction. This film has got a lot of clever dialogue, but the timing on it is often just a little bit off putting, because it’s hard to get the full effect of a horror scene when someone makes a great one-liner as they rip open a victim’s stomach without a beat or vice-versa. This movie doesn’t quite pull that transition off as well as other horror-comedies. Despite that, though, the script alone should have made this movie at least a minor hit. It really just has some of the off-beat and laugh-out loud lines that made Juno work so well, just framed around the story of a woman becoming a succubus. The characters are all interesting and well-crafted, although the two leads are the core of the story. From the beginning of the film, you get a feeling that there may be more to their relationship than just friendship and the movie plays with that masterfully. Their dialogue also highlights that the two do get along well, even if they’re very different, and part of that is that they can only be their true selves when together. We see Needy with her boyfriend and he is never as accepting of her feelings and wants as Jennifer. Not that Jennifer isn’t a stereotypical mean girl who bosses Needy around, she is, but it does seem like they do always have each others’ backs until the possession. 

She’s always happy to see Needy.

The gore in the film isn’t the heaviest for a horror film, but a lot of the shots are too bloody for people to get over easily. It probably also doesn’t help that for a movie marketed for sexuality and featuring a succubus, a demon known for seduction, Jennifer almost always kills her victims before actually having sex with them. She just uses her allure to get men close and isolated then feeds upon them. While I think that was actually part of the subversion that the filmmakers were going for, and it works well in that regard, conflicts between marketing and product often piss off both critics and viewers. 

Yeah, it’s not a T&A horror-fest.

The film has been getting some decent respect recently because it’s a story about a woman literally being sacrificed by men so they can achieve fame and success. If that doesn’t sound familiar, I think you might have missed the last decade or so. Jennifer gets thrown away by them after and comes back traumatized and lashing out, seeking revenge on the kind of men that mistreated her. The only problem with this is that the victims we see her prey on mostly seem harmless. They aren’t even usually sexually aggressive towards her. While this could be a statement about how trauma can cause victims to attack others in attempts to reject the feeling of powerlessness that accompanies being assaulted, innocent victims tend to turn horror movie audiences off. 

Although some of them might deserve it for being just that dumb.

Overall, I think this movie deserves more recognition than it got. There might have been more that director Karyn Kusama could have done to make the humor and horror elements work together better, but I think it’s still a must-watch for horror fans. 

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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: I Took a Chance on It and It was Super, Trouper – Amazon Review (Day 25)

I watched the sequel to one of my least favorite musicals and, wow, this was better.


Meryl Streep is dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever, about that. I considered this a surprise, as I thought she was marketed with the film, but if advertisements were always true indications of a film, I might have liked Suicide Squad

Yes, one of these women is dead the whole time.

Yes, Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, is dead and her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is set to reopen the hotel now under her management. While she is being helped by the manager Mr. Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia) and her father Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), she is upset that her other fathers, Harry and Bill (Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård), are not able to make the grand re-opening. This gets even worse when her husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper), reveals that he will not be able to come either. As Donna’s band members Rosie and Tanya (Julie Walters and Christine Baranski) show up, the film flashes back to tell the story of how a young Donna (Lily James) left Rosie and Tanya (Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn) behind to go explore Europe and meeting young Harry, Bill, and Sam (Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Jeremy Irvine). Also, we get to see Cher.


 So, I saw Mamma Mia after it originally came out and I did not enjoy it. I thought it was an amazing travel commercial for Greece, but in terms of being an effective musical, even a Jukebox Musical, I felt like it fell short. Honestly, I didn’t think Meryl Streep was as focused and flawless as she usually is and I thought that the songs didn’t really add much to the story, a common problem with trying to do a musical based on one band’s catalogue. The film always felt too grounded in reality for a musical, too, which seemed partially because it had to focus on the leads over the spectacle. Moreover, it sometimes felt to me like an example of why you should not cast certain actors (names have been changed for the sake of the victims) like Bierce Prosnan as leads in a movie like this. They’re great performers, but it’s completely different to pull off a musical number. 

This movie apparently read the notes from that one, because they fixed almost everything I didn’t like. 

But they kept the fun group shots, so great job.

First, it is not at all grounded. Scenes in this range from “over-the-top” to “insane” and I mean both of those in the absolute best way. In order to find justifications for some of ABBA’s more outlandish songs, the musical was forced to venture to situations far outside of a Greek hotel. For example, “Waterloo” is set at a Napoleonic themed restaurant in Paris, and all of the wait staff perform elaborate choreography designed to echo famous portrayals of the French Emperor. It starts to feel like you’re really in the kind of world where people are always on the edge of bursting into song. It also helps that more random bystanders get wrapped up in the music, like when a Vice Chancellor (Celia Imrie) goes from “well, I never” to “well, I always” in the middle of “When I Kissed the Teacher.” 

Waterloo was probably my favorite scene.

Second, the flashback cast is unbelievably good. Lily James really nails being a wild, young Donna, because she captures all of Meryl Streep’s joie de vivre without the regret we see for her circumstances in the first film. Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn (from Ed Wynn’s family, no less) both have the same comedic timing as their modern counterparts, but also have the requisite energy to keep up with Lily James. Hugh Skinner, the one playing young Colin Firth, was so spot on that I realized what character he was supposed to be immediately. Given how good he was on Fleabag, I suppose I should not have been surprised. While the other two young bachelors are also excellent, I will say that they didn’t really come off as young versions of their older counterparts as much as he did. Still, they were solid and believable as people that young Donna would want to have a romantic adventure with. Also, they’re much better singers than their aged counterparts, sparing us some performance issues. It did bother me that Young Stellan was not played by one of his ~25 children, but I got over it.

Wait, was this the 1970s? Because then Amanda Seyfried would be almost 50.

Third, they added Cher. I didn’t actually list this as a problem in the first movie, but, let’s be honest, every musical that DOESN’T have Cher in it is inherently inferior. While the movie does not have her in a ton of it, when she does show up and perform, it’s a powerful boost to the third act. 

God, you diva, you deserve everything you want.

Last, they definitely bumped up the dialogue for this film. I’m not saying that it’s deeper or more sincere; in fact, the opposite is true. This movie has more quips and funny one-liners that better suit the nature of a jukebox musical. There are some sincere moments, to be sure, but most of what keeps the film going are humorous interactions between the cast and this movie takes that up a notch. Admittedly, most of the good lines went to Christine Baranski, but she uses them to their fullest.

That woman has more sass in her eye shadow than most people do in their bodies.

Overall, I was amazed how good this movie was and how much of an improvement over the last film. I don’t know that you can watch it without having seen the first one, but if you already suffered through the first one, this is a must-see.

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Scoob!: Like A Weird Caricature of Scooby-Doo

The first animated feature film in the franchise is not quite what I hoped, but it’s not a tragedy.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (Will Forte/Iain Armitage) adopts a talking dog which he names Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) as a kid. The two become best friends, and one Halloween night they end up meeting three other children: Fred Jones (Zac Efron/Pierce Gagnon), Daphne Blake (Amanda Seyfried/Mckenna Grace), and Velma Dinkley (Gina Rodriguez/Ariana Greenblatt). The five end up thwarting a fake haunting in a local house and become a team of supernatural sleuths known as “Mystery Incorporated.” 

Scoob | Stream and Watch Full Film Online
A Pup named Scooby-Doo. That’s already a thing.

Ten years later, the group is trying to become an actual business, but Scooby and Shaggy are accused of being dead weight. They go and sulk by bowling, where they are attacked by robots. The team ends up being caught in a scheme by supervillain Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), resulting in them teaming up with the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), his canine robot companion Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), and his pilot Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons). It turns out this time the stakes might be the fate of the world.


Alright, I’m going to split this review so that I don’t drive people nuts. The first half is going to be me talking about this as a reviewer, the second as a Scooby-Doo fanboy. 

Scoob Review: Scooby-Doo Without the Scooby-Doo – /Film
This movie fears fans more than ghosts.

As a reviewer, this movie has some good points. The animation style really does seem like they just made a CGI model of the original cartoon designs with some era-appropriate updates. There are a number of surprisingly solid jokes for a film like this, including some decent slapstick gags. The film covers both the origin of the team as well as their “greatest challenge,” but it never really feels rushed. I was surprised how much happened in only 90 minutes. The addition of Blue Falcon (or at least his son Brian who takes over for him) allows the movie to put in some creative action sequences, and Jason Isaacs’s interpretation of Dick Dastardly manages to be deeper than the character has ever really been before and yet still a stereotypical villain. Also, there are a ton of cameos from past cartoons and the traditional goofy sound effects that will probably give you some childhood nostalgia. 

Review: 'Scoob' is all we could want in a Scooby-Doo reboot
Nostalgia bomb.

On the negative side, the voice acting is probably going to be divisive. I didn’t think it was really that great, because each of the voices felt more like the actor than the character. The plot is kind of ridiculous even for a kids’ movie, with me frequently going “wait, really?” Fortunately, it’s not too heavy on plot, trying instead for some deeper characterizations between the action and comedy. Unfortunately, it tries them with Blue Falcon and Dick Dastardly more than it does with the actual Scooby team and, honestly, Blue Falcon wasn’t that interesting. He’s the fame-seeking son of the original Blue Falcon, which could be worthwhile as the focus of a movie, but he’s only an ancillary character so most of the scenes feel weird and unnecessary. 

New Scoob! Trailer Introduces Dynomutt and Mark Wahlberg's Blue ...
Admittedly, Mark Wahlberg does play “fame-seeking idiot” pretty well.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, but it doesn’t ever really come close to the level of Pixar or Into the Spider-Verse or other modern great animated films. If you’ve got kids, it’s probably worth it when this movie comes out on Redbox or rental, but don’t spend the 20 bucks to get it now. 

CheerleaderNinjas - Logo
You could buy Cheerleader Ninjas four times for that amount.

Okay, so, now I’m going to address this as a long-time Scooby-Doo fan. I want you to understand that I have gone out of my way to watch almost every Scooby-Doo property and I am only mildly ashamed of that. Hell, I reviewed Daphne and Velma on here, because I’m that dedicated. So, as a fan, I say the following: It’s amazing that this movie can be so close to getting it right and yet not really get it at all. The film contains a decent reproduction of the original Scooby-Doo, Where are You? theme sequence that I think kind of represents the film as a whole: It’s got the elements, but not the spirit. It’s like the people who made this read all of the Wikipedia entries on Scooby-Doo and the rest of the Hanna-Barbera family, but didn’t watch them. 

Blue Falcon (Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated) | Scoobypedia | Fandom
In contrast to Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, which nailed everything.

Part of why I feel that way is the sort of “sampler platter” this film presents of the Scooby-Doo franchise. We start off with the gang as kids, like A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, then we see the Scooby-Doo, Where are You? Opening play out, then we see the gang meeting up with Simon Cowell, as they would in The New Scooby-Doo Movies, then we see them dealing with robots and superheroes rather than supernatural entities (although we end up seeing an actual supernatural element in the film), which is reminiscent of the later Scooby-Doo shows. This should have given me a nostalgia overload, but instead it ended up feeling like a jumbled mess, because while Scooby-Doo and the gang may have done things as diverse as rebooting the universe by defeating an eldritch abomination, helping KISS stop a witch, participating in the Laugh-a-lympics, or helping Batman fight crime, they never did them all at once. This film starts out with the traditional “meddling kids” model, but then abandons it when the plot actually begins, instead becoming more of an action comedy focused on Dick Dastardly and the Blue Falcon. That means that the characters we see in the first act should be completely out of their element throughout the rest of the movie, but instead they pretty much immediately just shift into the new paradigm without any issues. It just feels off.

SCOOB! Spoiler-Free Review; "A Better Dick Dastardly Story Than A ...
Also, THERE’S NO MYSTERY. It’s Dick Dastardly. He tells you that 10 minutes in.

It also doesn’t help that none of the characters really feel right either, from the characterizations and design updates to the voice actors. I love Will Forte, but he doesn’t really try to deliver Shaggy’s lines like he was Shaggy. Instead, it just comes off as Will Forte trying to act like himself in the 60s. He just doesn’t come off as a “scared hippie.” The same is true for most of the voice actors, aside from Amanda Seyfried and, of course, Frank Welker. It’s weird for me that they decided they had to have four celebrity voices when there already are already four semi-famous actors who voice the current version on television: Grey Griffin, Kate Micucci, Matthew Lillard, and Frank Welker, who has been voicing Fred for 50 freaking years. None of them really feel like the characters they’re supposed to be, from the voices to the appearances to the things they say and do. That extends to most of the other characters as well, with the usually goofy Dynomutt being a snarky jerk, the usually Batman-esque Blue Falcon being kind of an idiot, Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan) speaking normally and being sarcastic, and Dick Dastardly being an actual genius supervillain as opposed to just a comic badguy. It’s like they’re all drawings of the characters made by someone who had the originals described to them, rather than seeing the real thing.

Scoob!' Review: Once More Into the Mystery Machine - The New York ...
I didn’t want a serious Dynomutt. There’s even an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory about that.

Honestly, I still enjoyed parts of the movie, and I could overlook almost any of this if it were just a better film in general, but it still took it down a bit for me. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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