Tag Archives: Grief

The Captive (2014)

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All in all, “The Captive” is a pretty lame movie. It incorporates a ‘ripped from the headlines’ story with an admittedly good performance from Ryan Reynolds (who’s obviously trying to shed his ‘pretty boy’ image, with some success, but that doesn’t make this movie good,) but ultimately proves to be an unthrilling film that fails to be realistic or compelling.

Most of the fault seems to be with Kevin Durand, who plays a mustachioed pedo freak which such cartoonish abandon that one can only sigh and weep for the direction this movie takes. Durand’s Mika (but I’ll call him pedostache, mm-kay?) kidnaps young Cass (played by Peyton Kennedy as a child and Alexia Fast as a teen) from under poor Reynolds’ nose and does unspeakable things to her.

Reynolds, her dad, is blamed by his grieving wife (Mirielle Enos) for leaving Cass in the car for just a minute as he went into the pie shop to get dessert for his the three of them. Luckily, police officers specializing in child abduction and sexual abuse Nicole  (Rosario Dawson) and Jeffrey (Scott Speedman) are on the case.

It’s every parents worst nightmare, and great fodder for a thrilling, terrifying crime story, but something is missing. And it’s a shame that, with Reynolds performing so admirably, the central villains performance often lowers the film to ridiculousness.

Mika is an ever-so-slightly effeminate deviant with a pencil-thin pedostache, bleached buck teeth, a habit of crossing and uncrossing his legs constantly, and a penchant for opera, in other words, a live-action cartoon character who is impossible to take seriously in a film that is otherwise for all intents and purposes, earnest.

What the film doesn’t realize is that pedophiles look like regular people. They look like the kindly old man halfway down the block, the big bearish uncle who used to placate you with sweets and hug you a little too tightly. To portray an offender as a John Waters-esque creep is to do a disservice to reality. And Durand’s overly zesty performance doesn’t help.

Let me tell you about the ending. Obviously, **spoilers. Read at your own risk. Cass, who looks thirteen like Dame Maggie Smith looks twenty-five, is freed, and the baddie is smote. She returns to her regular life almost immediately, and the film closes on her ice-skating with a happy grin on her face. After years of Tina (Enos) psychologically abusing Matthew (Reynolds) and blaming him for their daughter’s’ disappearance, it seems like the duo will automatically get back together.

Aw, how Kodak. Bring out the camera, folks! Smile! Except all I can say is, really?!! Not only does the film completely fail to mention that Cass will be scarred for life and saying she will have trouble adjusting is a massive understatement, the revelation of Matthew and Tina hooking up at the end seems completely false. Their daughter is back, suddenly everything is swell! Never mind that the whole family has been completely through the ringer and will probably be deeply damaged for the rest of their lives. **end of spoilers

It would have been interesting to see Reynolds play the bad guy like he (sorta) did in “The Voices” (the “Voices” anti-hero wasn’t a pedo though, just a nice old fashioned serial killer.) To see Ryan Reynolds play a perv would be so totally different that I would kind of have to applaud it. As least “The Voices” felt like a unique experience. “The Captive” feels like a nighttime crime show that you half-watch while occupying yourself elsewhere. A really bad crime show. Ryan Reynolds, I don’t think this movie is the best way to further your career.  Although, I must admit, playing alongside Durand did make you look damn good.

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Life After Beth (2014)

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I didn’t expect much from this movie, but a family member rented it and I decided to watch in hopes that my fears would be unfounded and I would be exposed to a hidden gem. How very wrong I was. “Life After Beth” is dreadfully bad, an utter misfire on every level and a mediocre experience even if you lower your expectations exponentially.

“Life After Beth” is pretty much the 2004 horror-comedy “Zombie Honeymoon” except with the gender roles reversed and way, way worse. On paper it looks acceptable enough- what can go wrong with a cast like this? (I take that back, John C. Reilly was in the turd-tastic “Step Brothers.” But hey, “Magnolia!”) All I could think about towards the end was how surreal it was that Paul Reiser was in this and “Whiplash” the same year (the difference? “Whiplash” was actually good.)

Zach (Dane Dehaan) is an uninteresting young man whose girlfriend, Beth (Aubrey Plaza,) has recently died from a snakebite accident. So when Beth comes back with a voracious appetite for human flesh and a proclivity for smooth jazz (wait… what?), Zach isn’t ready to deal with the consequences.

While Beth’s mom and dad ( Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly) are determined to keep Beth’s death a secret from her (she doesn’t remember anything, and doesn’t show signs of decomposition immediately,) Zach’s parents (Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines) and gun-toting security guard brother (Matthew Gray Gubler) are no help at all, and Zach is left on his own trying to reconcile his feelings for Beth.

“Life After Beth” could have been a devastating drama where the grieving Zach tries to cope with Beth’s rebirth, along the lines of the TV series “The Returned.”  Or it could have been a hilarious zomedy similar to “Shaun of the Dead.” Instead it is neither. It is nothing. It is obsolete. It walks the line between comedy and drama (cheesy, but with few real laughs) and accomplishes nothing. It makes no lasting impression except to remind you occasionally how painfully bad it is.

The humor is just awkward (involving Beth throwing things and growling a lot and undead sexual aggression- always a laugh riot) and the drama disappointingly half-baked. Despite the star-studded cast, the movie features half-assed acting jobs all around. Dane Dehaan was an outright bore. With a lead who doesn’t seem to take the movie seriously, why should we? As for the make-up, my dad did a better job on my Halloween costume using about $20 worth of resources.

“Life After Beth,” is quite simply a pointless waste of time. It’s impossible to care about any of the characters because they’re so one-dimensional and a ending that should have been tragic (or funny! Or interesting! Anything!) just falls flat. I wouldn’t even recommend for die-hard Aubrey Plaza fans to watch this. It’s shit, and that’s a shame because there are way better horror/comedy films out there and this could have been one of them. Avoid this suck-fest at all costs.

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The Babadook (2014)

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How do you review a horror film that has excellently creepy buildup, but you’re just not feeling the ending? That was the question posed to me as the credits of “The Babadook” rolled. The be fair, it’s not a new dilemma- so many horror movies have awesome first halves and just kind of fall apart in the finale, but I felt the pain of this missed opportunity more keenly because the first portion of the movie was so damn good, a slitheringly sinister maternal nightmare topped by a great performance by Essie Davis.

Davis plays Amelia, a browbeaten widow and mother of a severely emotionally damaged six-year-old boy, Samuel (Noah Wiseman, who valiantly manages to mostly live up to the script’s demanding expectations.) Amelia works at a rest home and lives a decidedly stressful working-class existence. She cannot pretend that her son doesn’t add significantly to her multitude of worries, but she loves him with the fierce love of a mother who does all she can to raise her son . She is sexually frustrated. She looks perpetually bedraggled.

Amelia is romanced by a co-worker (Daniel Henshall), but she’s afraid to let him in, and when he comes by the house with flowers the kid scares him away. Samuel is expelled from school when he brings a homemade weapon, but things get really bad with mysterious arrival of a seriously disturbing children’s’ book The Babadook, which Amelia ill-advisedly reads to her so without really knowing what it’s about. Samuel and his mother are quickly taken over by dark forces, and under the Babadook’s watchful eyes Amelia starts making a horrifying transformation from supermom to mommie dearest.

The buildup in this film is exceptional- the dark palate and use of eerie editing and imagery propel the movie past typical horror fare, as well as the excellent character development. Amelia is not a perfect woman or mother, but she is an admirable one. Although she has never gotten over the death of her beloved husband, she raises Samuel as best she can in a increasingly forboding environment. Samuel puts you in a position somewhere between ‘wanna tell him it’s all going to be all right, even if it isn’t’ and ‘wanna strangle him,’ and Noah Wiseman plays on this balance effectively. You sorta want to hug him, you sorta want to hit him- in other words, he’s more of a typical child than you might think.

However, the scenes where the possessed Amelia chases Samuel around the house as he tries to fight her with his homemade crossbow are slapsticky enough to put the viewer in mind of a particularly dark “Home Alone.” (Admittedly, “Home Alone” was dark to begin with, but it got nothing on this.) Yes, folks- it seems that when the film hits it’s crescendo, all subtlety goes out the window. Which it a frickin’ shame, because the film up to then is outstanding. The ending doesn’t really work, but after a sub-par supernatural showdown  that isn’t really a big surprise.

Overall, “The Babadook” doesn’t work as well as it should but is still helluva a lot better than standard horror fare. The actors excel in their roles, the sense of fear is palpable but things get a little silly in the last twenty minutes, and isn’t that a shame. I still think the film is worth a watch for horror fans. It’s not half bad, but I guess after all the hype, I just set my expectations too high.

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Into the West (1992)

Although it may be a little intense for young tykes due to its alcoholism, poverty, and prejudice themes, “Into the West” is an overall charming and appealing family film with a compelling storyline. It’s plot is hugely unbelievable (two Irish lads rescue their magnificent white horse from an abusive owner and ride across Ireland evading the authorities at every turn,) but something about this story touched a warm fuzzy place in my heart.

Gabriel Byrne plays the alcoholic father of two young boys, Ossie and Tito (Ciarán Fitzgerald and Rúaidhrí Conroy,) who live with their perpetually drunk dad in a squalid Irish tenement building. The boy’s grandfather (David Kelly) is the proud owner of Tir Na Nog, a beautiful white horse. When Tito and Ossie decide to smuggle Tir Na Nog into the apartment (not an easy feat considering the tiny size of the place is barely livable for a family of three,) the police confiscate the horse and give him to a shady and rich hobbyist.

The duo track down the horse-owner and steal back the steed, riding him across the hills and fields of Ireland and getting into all sorts of trouble along the way. Meanwhile, their father John gets back in touch with his gypsy heritage and reconnects with Kathleen (Ellen Barkin,) an old friend in an attempt to track his sons.

John is a interestingly compelling and three-dimensional character- sometimes volatile, sometimes violent, he loves his sons but constantly manages to disappoint them. He pressures the illiterate oldest (Tito) to learn to read because as it so happens, he cannot. Tito does not appreciate the fact that his father is trying to do what is best for him, and he and his brother believe John does not love them. Gabriel Byrne plays John as occasionally heroic, sometimes pathetic, but never as a blunt, angry stereotype.

There are fantasy elements considering the almost supernatural majesty of the horse, but they never take over the human element of the story, which is closer to British Social Realism than director Mike Newell’s later J.K. Rowling adaptation “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” While “Goblet of Fire” is my favorite Harry Potter adaptation, “Into the West” is a little more low-key, more about growing up and learning to let go that sorcery and magic.

There are relevant social commentary (reflected by the prejudice towards the ‘travelers,’ the pressure of impoverished conditions, and the less-than-kosher treatment of the horse by the rich horse breeder,) and the acting is pretty strong overall, especially by Gabriel Byrne and the oldest son Rúaidhrí Conroy, although the performance by Ciarán Fitzgerald (Ossie) can be a little tiresome.

Overall, “Into the West” is a good kid’s movie with a lot of heart. Consider this a a superior alternative for teens and tweens to the the “Twilight” films and “Alvin and the Chipmunks- The Squeakquel” (God help me.) It is a rarity-  strong and underrated family film that remains interesting after you turn ten. Worth watching for kids and adults alike.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

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A rule of thumb- after your daughter’s newly resurrected cat comes back ‘stunted,’ 99.9% experts would advise you against burying your kid in the same Godforsaken place and in hopes that he will return from the dead as well. But that doesn’t stop Louis Creed, does it?

Believe it or not, this is my first Stephen King, though frankly I was a tiny bit disappointed at what I found to be solid yet somewhat overhyped prose. Don’t get me wrong, King has a great story to tell and some interesting commentary on grief and the dangers of meddling with the unspeakable, but I found the writing in general to be a bit underwhelming.

First, let’s dig into the premise itself- family man Louis has a loving wife, Rachel, and two great kids, Ellie and Gage. Together they move to a small town in Maine and Louis strikes up a friendship with grizzled local Jud Crandall. The damper on their otherwise happy life- the creepy burial ground built by the Micmacs years before unnervingly close to Louis’ property.

This is not the eponymous ‘Pet Sematary’, but a site relatively close behind it. Once the haunted locale gets hold of Louis, all bets are off (a string of disasters follow soon thereafter.) Despite Jud triying to convince Louis that ‘sometimes dead is better’ in the wake of tragedy, Louis in compelled to meddle with things that are not to be meddled with- with predictably horrific results.

In the dark, dank world of “Pet Sematary,” the beautiful, the natural, the wholesome can all be taken away with a domino effect of chaos. Stephen King does a pretty good job of playing on our basest fears, and on the inside the very old hardcover copy I read it said that this book was the one that Stephen King himself had trouble finishing.

I don’t know if this was legit or a marketing ploy- I didn’t think the book was that shocking, but I guess it’s different if you’re a parent of a small child (considering the gruesome death and reanimation of a very lovable child character.) However, I had some problems with the writing.

I hate repetition in prose when there isn’t a good reason for it, and there was lots of unnecessary repeating of words and phrases here- the nonsensical utterance of “Hey ho, let’s go” (I know it’s a line from a song, but what the hell does it have to do with anything in context, anyway?) Every so often Louis would think something ‘randomly’ or ‘stupidly,’ or refrain from bursting into hysterical, horrified laughter at the drop of a hat.

How often does one burst into maniacal laughter, I wonder? I was also driven to  interpret moments in the story in a totally inappropriate way. For instance, I found myself feeling sorry for Church (Ellie’s cat, who returns from buying the farm only to be kicked around by the repulsed Louis) and disturbed by the portrayal of Rachel’s disabled sister Zelda as a deformed, evil freak.

I found this book a little overlong at almost 400 pages, even though it’s one of the shortest books Stephen King wrote (!) To be fair, I was having a lot of mental health problems at the time, including repetitive re-reading, one of the staples of my OCD diagnosis. Now I’m wondering if I’m ever going to read that “Under the Dome” book I bought cover to cover.

Now, for a question for readers- is the “Pet Sematary”  worth watching? Also, what Stephen King books would you recommend to a newbie?

Antichrist (2009)

I was apprehensive about seeing “Antichrist,, but not primarily for the reason that you might expect. Yes, the film’s allegations of rampant misogyny (not a new accusation for controversial filmmaker Lars Von Trier) and graphic violence were daunting, but I also heard that the Von Trier’s new work was linked thematically to “Melancholia,” a film I found almost unbearably aloof and pretentious.

I am, however, a fan of the director’s earlier works “Dancer in the Dark,” and especially, “Breaking the Waves” (the film that made me fall irrevocably in love with Emily Watson), so I decided to  give this one a go. This movie didn’t make me fall in love with anybody, least of all the characters (though the acting is very good.) It made me want to hit something. Or crawl into a fetal position and cry.

Not that “Antichrist” is a bad movie. It’s certainly a well-made one. Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg act their hearts out as the otherwise unnamed He and She. It’s just… let me put it this way. Von Trier was in a period of deep depression during the conception of this film. The production was a disaster. Lars Von Trier’s hands shook as he held the camera. To see this movie is to take a close look into its creator’s tormented soul.

Don’t watch this movie if you have a weak stomach. On second thought, don’t watch this movie if you have anxiety, panic attacks, a love of children (the cute, cherubic youngster kicks it pretty early on in this dark story), or if you want to have a normal, functional life and healthy relationships. This coming from the girl who laughed at “The Human Centipede II” and was barely fazed by Haneke’s “Funny Games.”

I know. By building it up, I’m just making you want to watch it more, so I stop here. It’s like the Mormons who tell you “Don’t watch that, it’s filth!” So you go see it, naturally. The thing is, I’m not telling you not to see it. I’m just saying, tread carefully. What might be harmless for one person could be the last straw on the road to a mental breakdown.

In a visually rapturous black-and-white opening, He and She (Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) have passionate sex while their infant son, Nic, escapes from his crib and falls out the window (the similarities between Nic’s fate and the death of Eric Clapton’s son need not be mentioned.)

She collapses at the funeral and is taken to hospital. In He’s infinite wisdom, he pulls She out of the care of the government and decides to take her to the place that she fears the most (“Trust me- I’m a therapist”) — the woods. To be specific, one place in the woods: “Eden,”  a place She went with her son to write a thesis.

Almost immediately, She’s verbal taunts begin: He wasn’t there, He is indifferent to his son’s death, He’s cold and distant. Meanwhile, nightmares start to penetrate Eden’s placid exterior. And they’re not the only things doing so — He and She engage in weird, compulsive sex acts and mind games.

I didn’t love “Antichrist”- I’m not even sure I liked it, but it taps into a sense of primal fear like few films I’ve ever watched. However, the meaning is as obscure as the film is unnerving. One thing I notice is the unsexiness of intercourse and the frequent use of sex as a temporary distraction and means to an end. Does this mean the film’s theme revolves around sexual politics? I don’t know? The meaning is akin to an unsolvable problem.

“Antichrist” is not fun, entertaining, or easy, but it gets under your skin and creates a creeping sense of dread, so a certain respect for it must be retained. Because Lars Von Trier isn’t fun, entertaining, or easy, but he pours out the dark contents of his heart for the world to see and finds strength in the darkness.

Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

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Zombies are a source of fictional terror when you’re shooting them down “Walking Dead”-style. But what about caring for an undead family member- a spouse, a sibling, a child- when you suspect that there’s spiritually nothing left of them anymore? What would you risk- with the government swooping in to confiscate your dead and take them to a containment unit- if you had the tiniest iota of reason to believe that what they were when they lived was somewhere within them, waiting to be coaxed out?

This is the chilling premise of “Let the Right One In” author John Ajvide Lindqvist’s intriguing take on the zombie genre, “Handling the Undead.” Husband, father, and stand-up comic David’s worst fears are realized when his wife, Eve, is killed in a car accident. But things start to get seriously weird when Eve gets up- after being pronounced dead- and astounds the institute’s doctors.

Similar cases occur all over Sweden, where the dead wake in morgues or in their graves, suddenly alive, and initially harmless, but changed- shells of their former selves. Most of the book is focused on how the citizens deal with their feelings of grief and horror at this shocking occurrence.

Morbidly obese sadsack and newspaper reporter Gustav Mahler rushes to unbury his deceased grandson, Elias, while telepathic widow Elvy (Christian grandmother of a similarly gifted, emo teen, Flora) is reluctant to accept her newly-zombified husband into her life. As it is revealed that the living can read each other’s thoughts while in the company of the undead, causing further discord, the government frets about what to do about the socially marginalized hoards.

I actually liked this book better than Lindqvist’s previous novel, “Let the Right One In,” but not nearly as much as the Swedish film adaptation. I found this book easier to read because there were not as many extraneous characters and subplots as the former (although, to be fair, “Handling the Undead” also had a rather abrupt ending.) The characters in “Handling the Undead” range from pretty well-developed (Flora and Elvy are the highlights of the book) to hardly developed at all (Mahler’s daughter, Anna, who mostly comes of as a passive-aggressive bitch) but for the most part the cast is pretty interestingly written.

The horror of the initial premise, pays off here, with lots of gooey descriptions of zombie guts and decomposition. However, there is also a definite element of tragedy at play as well, as families struggle to cope with their loved ones’ changed natures. There seems to be an undercurrent of political commentary too. The dead (charitably called the ‘reliving’) are shuffled of to a sterile environment and are not exempt from experiments carried out by eager medical personnel.

Like the very sick and disabled, the undead are a problem society simply does not want to deal with. The solution- make the problem go away. This serves as a potent (though decidedly non-PC) allegory. However, I did not like the direct connections drawn between the undead and people with Autism.

Apparently “Handling the Undead” is going to become a TV series, which I am somewhat excited for. I suspect some of the gruesome details (such as the child, Elias’ horrific appearance,) will be gussied up or omitted completely for the sake of so-called ‘good taste’ (on the other hand, the film “Let the Right One In” did fine without the zombie-Hakan attempted rape scene or the icky details of Hakan’s pedophilic escapades from the book.) Also, can we expect a forgettable U.S remake?

To be truthful, I like funny-zombies better than serious-slash-scary-zombies. That said, I enjoy serious zombie stories (such as “The Walking Dead” or “The Returned”) if it has that special something (intriguing characters, genuine scares, or a vitally new take on the familiar story of a worldwide epidemic.) As it so happens, “Handling the Undead” has a little of that something. And I never (I mean never) read horror fiction, but count Lindquist on my radar.

Beautiful Boy (2010)

Writer’s Note- I wrote this review a couple of years ago and just posted it on this blog now, so forgive me if the writing isn’t up to par with some of the later reviews. Also, I wrote this a little while before the film “We Need to Talk About Kevin” came out.

Within a span of a couple of years, two indie films with very similar premises hit festivals, their names being We Need to Talk About Kevin and Beautiful Boy. I have just seen the latter, a tremendously acted film that deals with the aftermath of rather than the build-up to a school shooting, and concentrates on the grieving parents of the shooter.

The tagline of this movie, “Everything seemed perfect… Everything would change” is grossly inaccurate, as the group in question is not a happy family. Katie and Bill (Maria Bello and Michael Sheen) are trapped in a failing marriage to the point of sleeping in separate beds, while college student Sam (Kyle Gallner) is suicidally depressed and can barely contain his tears as he talks to his parents by phone, as it turns out, for the last time.

Beautiful Boy‘s shooter does not seem to be a psychopath, as We Need to Talk About Kevin‘s promos show their angry young man to be. Rather, he seems to be a deeply unhappy person who irrationally not only wants to die, but wants to take some people with him.

Frankly, I don’t agree with the film’s statement that “it’s nobody’s fault.” Except in some rare cases, people are to some degree responsible for their own actions. If you say it is in no way the shooter’s fault, you’re taking away his role as perpetrator. Should we say the same for rapists? Pedophiles? If you don’t consider the kid a monster, fine (nor do I), but give me something here.

Paired with the son’s seemingly average home life, this makes the film’s act of violence rather puzzling. What really stands out is the acting, Maria Bello, primarily, but also Michael Sheen, Kyle Gallner, and Alan Tudyk (from the great series Firefly) as the concerned brother. The peculiarly named Moon Bloodgood and Meat Loaf are decent too, though not notably so. Some of Beautiful Boy reminded me of Todd Fields’ In The Bedroom, the guilt, the blame-placing, and the grief, without the relentless grimness of Fields film.

One plus is the minimal use of music to make a point, which is always applied with buzz kill in mainstream American films. Beautiful Boy is an emotional film — try to watch the scene where the parents receive the news without your lip a-quivering, and excellently acted, but a certain something keeps it from being an “unforgettable film.”

It may be the sentimentality or naivete placed deep within the script or the fact that, although there are many characters to care about, there are none who blow you away. I’m interested to see what We Need to Talk About Kevin does with the subject matter, and whether it surpasses this in content or style.

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

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“A Land More Kind Than Home” may well be one of the most beautiful, insightful, and gritty novels I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a rare thing for a book to take so far out of your range of experiences and hook you almost immediately, and this novel does exactly that, employing a cast of some of the most fascinating characters I’ve seen in ages. The focus is religion-gone-badly-awry and ignorance, with tragedy as a result, but never does it seem preachy or dicdactic.

Jess Hall is a precocious nine-year-old boy who is expected by default to take his thirteen-year-old, significantly Autistic brother Christopher (AKA Stump) everywhere he goes. The miracle of Jess’ character is that he doesn’t resent Stump in the least, as many young protagonists who serve as makeshift caretakers for their disabled siblings are. Jess and the gentle but entirely non-verbal Stump are as close as brothers can be expected to be, and they share a special bond that Jess doesn’t maintain with anyone else. Together they chase fireflies, catch salamanders, and amuse themselves exploring their rural North Carolina landscape.

Jess and Stump’s mom Julie is basically well-intentioned but a bit of an idiot, to be honest. She spends her time at the Baptist Church run by a shady and mysterious figure by the name of Carson Chambliss. The worshippers speak in tongues and dabble in snake-handling (AKA generally dodgy stuff,) and Jess’ atheistic pop Ben will have nothing to do with the diseased goings-on within the church. But when Jess and Stump catch wind of something they shouldn’t it is Stump who pays dearly.

The book is narrated by three POV characters- Jess, who is in too deep in the world of adults and still doesn’t entirely understand their affairs, is the center of the drama and arguably the lead. Adelaide Lyle is a good Christian and a very old lady who kind of also serves as the town wise woman. Clem Barefield is the sheriff, past his prime and dealing with his own demons. Resentments simmer in the small NC town of Marshall and explode into violent climactic confrontation.

I found the writing to be beautiful and literary without making a big show of itself (i.e. readable.) The narrative immediately grabs your attention as Addie recounts confronting Chambliss and being put in a threatening situation by the batty self-proclaimed prophet. If you’re interested in how “A Land More Kind Than Home” depicts Autism Spectrum Disorders, I found prose on Stump’s condition to be well-written and sensitively rendered.

On a side note, can I just say how much I wanted to shake Julie. I’ve NEVER seen a character in a book act as obtuse as she did. In the end, I found her almost as at fault in her ignorance as Chambliss was in his psychopathy. NO sympathy for her by the end of this novel. I thought all three POV’s worked extremely well to give us a multi-dimensional look into the story.

I want to read Wiley Cash’s second book “This Dark Road to Mercy”  as soon as possible. “A Land More Kind Than Home” is a rollicking good read and a beautiful piece of literature in its own right.

Broadchurch (2013)

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In a sleepy close-knit coastal town, 11-year-old Danny Latimer (Oskar McNamara) is found murdered, his body dumped on the beach. At first, it seems like the crime nobody could have committed- the people of Broadchurch are like friends and family to each other, and even the black sheep seem more or less harmless. But as surly outsider DI Alec Hardy (a worn-down, sunken-cheeked post-“Who” David Tennant) and D.S. Ellie Miller (the wonderful Olivia Colman,) who has ties to the victim investigate, they find that everyone in this town’s got secrets. And some of them are worth killing for.

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There are only eight episodes here, so you don’t have as much of a commitment as a viewer than a lot of TV shows. All the actors in this series are wonderful, and the show keeps you  on the edge of your seat. It’s nice to see that David Tennant is expanding his horizons beyond being the ‘cute funny foreign guy with the crazy hair.’ He’s genuinely good here as a disgraced detective with an serious heart condition that’s interfering with his work. What’s not nice is the fact that he will be duplicating the role in the pointless American remake “Gracepoint.” But I’ll explain my feelings about the superfluous “Broadchurch” carbon copy later.

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I’ve thought Olivia Colman was a tremendous talent since I saw her play the abused Christian charity shop worker in Paddy Considine’s wrenching “Tyrannosaur.” She does the great work we expect of her after her powerful portrayal of that character. Lots of the supporting players do great jobs too. I always thought of David Bradley as ‘that nasty greasy old dude’ as a faithful watcher of the Harry Potter movies. Here he shows range and depth playing a lonely man who may or may not be a sex offender.

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The side plot portraying the grief of Danny’s family- his mother, Beth (Jodie Whittaker,) his father, Mark (Andrew Buchan,) and his big sister Chloe (Charlotte Beaumont)- was heartbreaking. I had previously seen Jodie Whittaker in “Attack the Block,” which was a lot of fun, and she does a good job as a mother whose grief swallows up her life. And it was a laugh seeing Arthur Darvill (“Doctor Who”) as a vicar. I was glad they portrayed Rev. Paul Coates (Darvill) fairly instead of making him the babbling mindless hypocrite they usually portray religious authorities as. And I’m so glad they didn’t go the pedophile route with his character.

The mystery is really hard to figure out (at least for me, someone who doesn’t read or watch mysteries, but that might not be saying much.) At the end I had it narrowed down to a few characters, and one of the characters I picked turned out to be the killer, but I was still surprised. The scenery is beautiful, and the show shows that even in a idyllic town, there are still some people who are missing a few nuts and bolts. A murder can happen anywhere, but in my opinion, you shouldn’t surrender to fear and you should still let your kids live the freest life you can allow.

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This is a highly entertaining show, but it lacks the extra ‘umph’ to make me give it a higher rating than 4/5. My dad won’t watch it because he likes ‘fun’ shows and he thinks it will be depressing, but it is no more depressing than a murder mystery concerning a child has to be. And as far as sensitive viewers go there’s barely any violence whatsoever. I’m mad that the American remade it with the same damn actor (!) and as far as I can tell from the trailer, the show is exactly the same. Why the heck can’t Americans watch the original program instead of some cheap rip-off? But I digress. “Broadchurch” is a worthy watch carried on the shoulders of Colman and Tennant.

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