The Invitation Movie Review

IF YOU HAVE NETFLIX, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND GO SPEND THE NEXT HOUR AND 40 MINUTES WATCHING “THE INVITATION”.

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Karyn Kusama’s “The Invitation”, is one of the most suspenseful horror thriller’s (may not be for the faint of heart) I’ve since 2008’s “The Strangers”. With suspense built in ways that will make you physically tense in anticipation while feeling impossibly nervous, this movie will have you on the edge of your seat wondering what the %#^& is going on?!

Because trust me. You will think that.
What the %#^& is going on?!
But you will find yourself genuinely caring about what’s actually going down and why.

I don’t want to tell too much about the plot of the movie. Its best to go into this one knowing its simply about a dinner party.

That’s it.
That’s all you need to know.
At one point, my jaw muscles were so tense, I had to pause the movie and relax a bit. True story.

The cinematography includes dark rich colors, shadows and lots of fun, ingenious camera tricks that makes for beautiful eye candy. My favorites being the slow camera zoom as a story is told by one of the characters in the house and a lovely face-to-face father/son shot. About half-way through the movie, there is a crazily stunning infinity mirror shot of the main character Will, that may actually reflect the way you’re feeling at this part of the movie.

And we must talk about the main character Will and how ridiculously good looking he is. For any woman (and man, for that matter) out there who is a fan of Tom Hardy, you are in for a pleasant surprise. This man looks like if all of the times Tom Hardy has EVER been hot met the super scruffy, dirty, man hulk, hairy Tom Hardy and they had a lovechild, Logan Marshall-Green would be their spawn. This man is the epitome of the perfect Tom Hardy, if there was such a thing because let’s face it, Tom Hardy himself is ridiculously HOT.

But that’s beside the point. Tom Hardy is NOT in “The Invitation” but a lovechild spawn of him is.

There are times in this movie when homeboy Will (or Hottie Hardy) should have left after things were said. I found myself audibly telling him so by yelling at my TV screen. But I reckon if he left, this movie would not exist so therefore he stayed, which made for a most excellent movie. I truly believed everything about everyone but also that nothing was it seemed. The character chemistry was fantastic from Will’s suspicion to Eden’s sadness to Kira’s defeat, with scenes where the tension was so thick that I found myself forgetting to breathe.Theodore Shapiro’s music throughout is intensely alluring, gracefully building the suspense and heightening the overall mood to allow the audience to truly get caught up in what the %#^& is going on?!

Several scenes were so powerfully sad that they almost made me forget that this was a horror thriller but then something would quickly remind me of just that and I would become nervous all over again. The acting was SO well done and the backstory was told beautifully between flashbacks that easily intensified the entire theme of the movie: grief and how people deal with it.

“I’ve been waiting to die ever since the moment it happened”.
Bravo for this line and the delivery of it.

Grief is an overwhelming feeling that everyone deals with differently. Some days are easy to get through and other days are full of the most exhausting anguish there is. But knowing that we all go through our own share of heartache and sadness helps to make it a little easier to realize we’re not going through it alone. Small, teeny tiny underlying message of the movie but absolutely not the main focus.

What I’m trying to say is “The Invitation” is SUCH an amazing emotional roller-coaster that will keep you guessing until the very end. Fantastically paced with a payoff that you’ll be thinking about well after the movie has finished, do yourself a favor and watch it as soon as you can.

I’ve watched it four times since my first viewing.
And I’m probably going to go watch it again.
Excuse me.

A British Love Affair

 

I was a nerdy teenager who not only loved movies but the soundtracks that accompanied them. Some of my favorites were Titanic, The Faculty and Twister. Like I said: nerdy. But it was the soundtrack for I Know What You Did Last Summer that would introduce me to a British indie rock band that would open my mind and ignite my soul.

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On top of music from Type O Negative, The Offspring and Toad the Wet Sprocket, the soundtrack opened with a cover of Deep Purple’s “Hush”. The band was called Kula Shaker and the song easily became my favorite of the summer. Led by Crispian Mills, son of legendary actress Haley Mills, (who my mom was a HUGE fan of growing up and introduced me to all of her movies when I was little), it was the catchiness and hint of Brit-rock that caught my attention but it wasn’t until I bought their debut album K, that I discovered what the band was really all about.

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Psychedelic rock all the way immersed in 60s nostalgia intertwined with a magical Raga influence that created a soul-shaking fusion of rock and new age, K rocked my world like no album ever had. With an emphasis on Indian mysticism and instrumentation, the use of the sitar, tambura and table mix combined with wa-wa pedals + heavy guitars shaped a mystical ambiance drenched in Nag Champa. Joyfully optimistic and hopeful, praising the alchemy of life while reminding to have fun and celebrate being alive, this album without a doubt changed my universe.

In the summer of ’99, nearing the two-year mark of my love affair with Kula Shaker, the band announced a small US tour for their sophomore album Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts. My 15-year-old self was elated at the fact they would be stopping in Carrboro, NC at The Cat’s Cradle. At the time, I had only been to big concert arenas, not yet exploring the more intimate club setting. I could not wait to be in the presence of this band and experience their message live. I was counting down the days and X’ing them off my wall calendar as the time grew near. I listened to nothing but K, psyching myself up for what was surely to be a life-altering show.

Out of school for summer break, I remember sleeping in late the day of the show. I woke up especially chipper, knowing nothing could touch my mood: I was going to see Kula Shaker!!! Around 2 in the afternoon, the phone rang. It was mom, calling to ask me if I had heard the news. “What news?” I asked her. Less than 5 hours before the doors were supposed to open, the show had been cancelled.

My heart nearly stopped in my chest.
I had never (and still have never) been so disappointed by the cancellation of ANYTHING. No flashing lights. No drums. No sitar. No Crispian Mills. No life-altering show. NOTHING. I will not admit to the crying that ensued.

And to make matters worse, the band “officially” split up two months later. Thankfully they reformed in 2004, releasing 2 more full-length albums as well as a 15th anniversary edition of K, including unreleased material and a documentary.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago: the band announced the release of their fifth studio album K2.0 and premiered their new song “Infinite Sun”. The guttural shriek of glee I let out is too embarrassing to describe.

Besides the obvious excitement of new music from one of the greatest bands I’ve ever heard, the anticipation of a possible U.S. tour is overwhelming. My fingers are crossed ever so tightly and my heart is all-a-flutter. Make this silly pink-haired gal’s LIFE and get thee to NC: your biggest fan awaits!!!

 

 

Lights, Camera, ACTION!!

Since the mid-eighties, North Carolina has been the location for many a film and TV show, particularity the Wilmington (hello, Wilmywood!) + Asheville areas. Movies like “I Know What You Did Last Summer“, “Empire Records” and the TV show “Dawson’s Creek” were all shot in Wilmington while many scenes from “The Hunger Games” and “Forrest Gump” were filmed in the beautiful mountains of Asheville. Even that iconic lift in “Dirty Dancing” was shot in Lake Lure! 

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Which means there are A LOT of opportunities to do work as a background “extra”.

My first experience as an extra was back in 2002. I had just graduated high school and it was the end of summer. My friend, Leann called me about a casting crew that was set up at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh. They were in need of “punk” extras for an upcoming episode of “Dawson’s Creek” that was taking place at a “pretend” No Doubt concert. Not really knowing what to expect, I got dressed, grabbed a couple recent head shots and met her at the mall. We waited in a long line of hopeful teenagers + their parents for about 20 minutes before we were able to leave our photos + contact info. We got calls the next day letting us know the filming time + location, which was later on that very same day at the former RBC Center, now known as the PNC Arena in Raleigh. We were told to come camera ready and to bring as many clothing options as we wanted. Being a somewhat-angsty, goth-rock eighteen-year-old girl who needed to look like she was going to a rock show, I had PLENTY to choose from.

In the clip below (it’s cued up for your viewing pleasure), as Michelle Williams + Jensen Ackles (yes, I was in BOTH of their presence) walk towards the concession stand, you can see me in all my nerdy, somewhat-angsty glory as I walk away from the counter of said concession with 2 other girls. I’m in a red, plaid skirt and fishnets, of course. Also, around the 7:00 mark, as Michelle is using me as her “focal point” (director’s orders, yo!), I walk behind her with my lady friends. See how I totally just happened to look towards the camera? That wasn’t a coincidence. For I am an Absolute. Nerd.

We were on set for nearly 12 hours that day. I arrived at noon and didn’t leave until 11:30 that night. Once I checked in + filled out the appropriate paperwork, I headed upstairs to a huge lobby where about 100 other people were scattered amongst racks of clothes and bags of shoes. After I found Leann, we waited around for about 45 minutes before we were instructed to follow a chick with a walkie-talkie + badge who was obviously important. We were led downstairs to a roped off area where there were dozens of cameras, crew-workers and even more extras. We were placed at a concession stand and told to make small talk while buying popcorn. After about 15 to 20 seconds, we were to exit to our left. Easy, right? It’s something we naturally do whenever we go to a concert or movie. Imagine doing it 11 times in a row in silence while the main actors are ACTUALLY acting behind you. It starts to not feel “natural” at all and is kind of weird. I had to make a constant effort to not laugh each time we walked away from the concession stand.

Once that shot was complete, we were moved to a column and told to wait until the actors passed us before walking behind them. After two takes, the director instructed Michelle to look towards “plaid-skirt blonde” as she walked (we are now best friends). Each time I walked into the frame, I was determined to look towards the camera, to gaurentee an “AHA! There I am!” moment. Like I said: Absolute. Nerd.

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Fast forward thirteen years later to this past weekend where I once again, got to be a “punk” extra. This time, it was in downtown Wilmington  where I filmed scenes for “London Calling“, the upcoming biopic about The Clash‘s Joe Strummer starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (hubba hubba).

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My mom actually found the posting on an NC film website and left me a voicemail about it. I looked up the official info and emailed my photo to the casting agent. I didn’t hear back until a few days later but was eventually told to be camera ready at 7pm to film in the streets of downtown Wilmington on Sunday Sept. 20; holding would be at The Hilton Riverside. Well, ALL RIGHT. 🙂 (Thanks Mom!)

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After a lovely two hour drive with music blaring + the windows down, I was in Wilmington. Once I got to the hotel, I went upstairs to the DeRosset Room, located on the third floor, where I waited with about 50 other people. We all checked in, signed release forms and got into whatever we planned to wear for filming.
waitingAround 8:00, an assistant came up and took everyone across the street to an alleyway behind a parking deck. He put us in random groups and gave different directions. I was to walk across the street and up the stairs as this beautiful London Black Cab or “hackney carriage” drove down the narrow street, carrying Mr. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (hubba hubba again).

I also had to run up and down the street a number of times, which was closed off by police cars on either end, their lights flashing. A nice size crowd ended up gathering to watch us “punks” gallivant in the streets. It was pretty wild.
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I was in Wilmington all of 3.5 hours before I needed to drive back home but it was pretty much nonstop the entire time. “Should I Stay Or Should I Go“, “London Calling” and “I Fought the Law” were on repeat in the background and are STILL stuck in my head. The whole trip was kind of a blur + went super fast but I met some cool + interesting people, ran around in the streets as cops watched and “filmed a movie“. I think that’s pretty rad for a Sunday night…

Just Friends Bloopers

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If you have never seen the movie Just Friends, you must do so immediately. It’s one of Ryan Reynolds finer moments (although his body in the Amityville Horror remake is sinful) but its Ana Farris who steals the show! Her performance alone makes this movie ridiculously funny, especially her toothpaste “bubble” scene. Chris Klein is superb as the dork-turned-stud Dusty Dinkleman (excuse me, Dusty Lee) and Amy Smart is lovable per usual as the perfect girl next door.

If you’re anything like me, you dig blooper reels and seeing people mess up and/or be extremely silly. Even if you’re not familiar with the movie, I guarantee you’ll laugh anyway…

“I’M MAKING GINGERBREAD COOKIES!!!!”

Movie Review: Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

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Mathias Malzieu, of the French-Victorian-Dark-Cabaret group, Dionysos not only wrote a beautiful book called “La Mécanique du cœur” (translated to “the mechanics of the heart“) but he paired up with illustrator Nicoletta Ceccoli to turn his book into the most beautiful animated movie I have ever seen. Ever.

Set in the 1800’s (with dark, Gothic animation easily resembling Tim Burton‘s dreamworld but is also completely original), the story begins on the coldest day on Earth as a pregnant young woman makes her way to the home of a midwife. After she gives birth to Jack, a boy who’s heart is frozen solid, Madeleine, the creatively odd midwife, fixes him up with a heart made out of a cuckoo clock. (There are other characters in the movie who have been “fixed up” by Madeleine with just-as-creative “parts”. Have you ever seen a spine made out of a xylophone?) Knowing she would never be able to care for him, the mother leaves her newborn with the midwife, who loves + raises Jack as her own.

On his 10th birthday, Madeline takes Jack into town to go exploring for the first time in his life. Before their venture, she reminds Jack of the three golden rules he must obey due to his fragile heart:

1 Never touch the hands of the clock
2 Control your anger and
3 (the most important rule) Never ever fall in love

While in town, Jack meets the lovely Miss Acacia and of course, begins to fall in love. Over the course of the movie, we are introduced to an array of bewitching + colorful characters (like Joe the rapping (yes RAPPING!) Bully and a two-headed whimsical lady with wings as well as cinematographer, Georges), settings (the entire circus is a visual feast) and songs while Jack discovers the true meaning of love. Based on a concept album by the French rock band, the film’s music was entirely composed by Dionysos. My favorite songs are without a doubt “Flamme A Lunettes (All I See Are Stars)” and “La Berceuse Hip Hop du Docteur Madeleine (Madeleine’s Hip Hop Lullaby)” as well as the main theme song for the movie.

Here I am being a total nerd and singing along with “All I See Are Stars.

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Now keep in mind, this IS a foreign film and while sometimes the translations fall a little flat, it never takes away from the overall beauty of this movie. On top of its visual beauty that resembles a children’s book brought to life, there are 2 important life lessons to take away:

Life Lessons:
1 “If you spend your life avoiding getting hurt, you’ll probably die of boredom first.”

No one wants to get hurt in this world, especially in matters of the heart but how will you ever feel ANYTHING if you shy away from other people and don’t step outside your comfort zone?

2 “Your difference is your strength… it makes you special. Make the most of your difference.”
Embrace your own weirdness and individuality; its what makes YOU who you are. Our differences from one another is what make us unique.

I give this movie a 10/10. I could watch it everyday and would fall in love with it every single time. Its magical, artistic charm + childlike wonder while tackling “adult” subjects such as love + death is what makes this movie so special and extraordinary. I wish there were more of Malzieu’s creations in the world.

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“All I see are stars, Suddenly some days,
My eyes lead me astray, Faraway down the street
Until I can’t bear to steal, A glance at the sun
Or even look the sky straight in the eye
All I see are stars…”