REVIEW: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003)

CAST

Jessica Biel (The A-Team)
Jonathan Tucker (Hostage)
Erica Leerhsen (Wrong Turn 2)
Mike Vogel (Bates Motel)
Eric Balfour (Skyline)
Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns)
R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket
David Dorfman (The Ring)
Lauren German (Hostel: Part 2)
John Larroquette (Stripes)

On August 18, 1973, five young adults—Erin, her boyfriend Kemper, and their friends Morgan, Andy, and Pepper—are on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert after traveling to Mexico to buy marijuana. While driving through Texas, the group pick up a distraught hitchhiker walking in the middle of the road. After trying to talk to the hitchhiker, who speaks incoherently about “a bad man”, she shoots herself in the mouth.

The group goes to contact the police, when a woman named Luda Mae tells them to meet Sheriff Hoyt at the mill. Instead, they find a young boy named Jedidiah, who tells them Hoyt is at home. Erin and Kemper go through the woods to find his house, leaving Morgan, Andy, and Pepper at the mill with Jedidiah. They come across a plantation house and Erin is allowed inside by an amputee named Monty to call for help. Kemper goes inside to look for Erin and is killed with a sledgehammer by Thomas Hewitt, also known as “Leatherface”, who drags his body into the basement and finds an engagement ring meant for Erin.Meanwhile, Hoyt arrives and disposes of the hitchhiker’s body. After Erin finds that Kemper is missing, she and Andy go back to Monty’s house, and Erin distracts him while Andy searches for Kemper. Monty realizes Andy is inside and summons Leatherface, who attacks him with his chainsaw. Erin escapes and heads towards the woods, but Leatherface cuts Andy’s leg off and carries him to the basement, where he is impaled on a meat hook. Erin makes it back to the mill, but before she and the others can leave, Hoyt shows up. After finding marijuana on the dashboard, he orders Erin and Pepper to get out of the van, gives Morgan the gun he took from the hitchhiker, and tells him to reenact how she killed herself. Morgan, disturbed by his demands, attempts to shoot him, only to find that the gun is unloaded. Hoyt handcuffs Morgan and drives him to the Hewitt house, taking the van’s key with him.Erin and Pepper are attacked by Leatherface, who is wearing Kemper’s face as a mask. When Pepper attempts to run, she is killed by Leatherface. Erin runs and hides in a nearby trailer belonging to an obese middle-aged woman known only as the Tea Lady, and a younger woman named Henrietta, who give her tea. Erin discovers they have kidnapped the hitchhiker’s baby, but passes out before she can escape, as the tea is drugged. Erin wakes up at the Hewitt house surrounded by the family: Leatherface, his mother Luda Mae, Hoyt, Monty and Jedidiah. Luda Mae informs Erin that Leatherface was tormented for his whole life because of a skin disease that left his face disfigured, and that she felt no one cared for her family besides themselves.Erin is taken to the basement, where she finds Andy and kills him to end his suffering after failing to get him off the hook. Afterwards, she finds Morgan handcuffed in a bathtub. Jedidiah, who does not agree with his family’s actions, leads them out of the house and distracts Leatherface long enough for them to escape. Erin and Morgan find an abandoned shack in the woods and barricade themselves inside. Leatherface breaks in and discovers Erin, but Morgan attacks Leatherface, who kills him with his chainsaw. Erin escapes into the woods, pursued by Leatherface. She finds a slaughterhouse and attacks Leatherface with a meat cleaver, chopping off his right arm.Erin runs outside and flags down a trucker, who she tries to convince to drive away from the Hewitt house, but he stops to find help at the eatery. As the family is distracted by the trucker, Erin sneaks the baby out of the eatery and places her in the sheriff’s car. Erin hot-wires the car and Hoyt tries to stop her, but she runs him over repeatedly until he is dead. Then, Leatherface suddenly appears in the road and slashes the car with his chainsaw, but Erin manages to escape with the baby, and he watches in anger as she drives away.The atmospheric and chilling sound effects are especially well done, on a par with any other horror movie. The iconic, hulking serial killer Leatherface is a man mountain of maniacal mayhem, and who’s physiognomy is the stuff of nightmares – he’s comfortably one of the all-time horror genre greats. Jessica Biel is absolutely fantastic in the lead role as a headstrong and ballsy woman, who’s early shock and terror at her hellish predicament is quickly subsumed by her sheer determination to survive against all the odds.

REVIEW: MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

CAST

Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Eileen Atkins (Paddington 2)
Marcia Gay Harden (Mona Lisa smile)
Hamish Linklater (Legion)
Simon McBurney (Allied)
Jacki Weaver (The Voices)
Erica Leerhsen (Wrong Turn 2)
Catherine McCormack (28 Weeks Later)

Colin Firth, Eileen Atkins, and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)In 1928, a globally famous illusionist, Wei Ling Soo, performs in front of a crowd in Berlin with his world-class magic act. As he walks off stage the film audience sees that he is actually a British man named Stanley (Colin Firth). He berates his employees and is generally curmudgeonly towards his well-wishers. In his dressing-room, he is greeted by old friend and fellow illusionist Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney). Howard enlists Stanley to go with him to the Côte d’Azur where a rich American family, the Catledges, has apparently been taken in by a clairvoyant and mystic, Sophie (Emma Stone). In fact, the son of the family, Brice (Hamish Linklater), is smitten with Sophie, and his sister Caroline (Erica Leerhsen) and brother-in-law George (Jeremy Shamos) are concerned Brice is considering proposing marriage. Howard says that he has been unable to uncover the secrets behind her tricks and he admits that the more he watched her the more he believed she really has supernatural powers. So he would like Stanley, who has debunked charlatan mystics in the past, to help him prove she is a fraud.Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Howard and Stanley travel to the French Riviera, but Stanley is soon astonished by Sophie’s ability to go into a fugue state and apparently pull out highly personal details about him and his family. Stanley witnesses a seance in which Sophie communicates with the deceased patriarch of the American family. A candle floats up from the table and Howard grabs it to try to discern what trickery is at play, but is astounded to find no apparent subterfuge. Stanley begins spending time with Sophie. He takes her to visit his aunt and they drive a convertible along the picturesque rocky corniches.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)When Stanley and Sophie visit his aunt Vanessa (Eileen Atkins), Sophie is seemingly able, after holding aunt Vanessa’s pearls, to somehow relate secret details of Vanessa’s one great love affair. This finally convinces Stanley of Sophie’s authenticity and he has an emotional epiphany, feeling that his lifelong rationalism and cynicism have been misguided. When caught in a rain storm, they end up at an observatory that Stanley had visited as a child. After the rain subsides, they open the roof up and view the stars.Colin Firth and Simon McBurney in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)At a Gatsby-esque party, Stanley and Sophie dance. As they walk together later that night, Sophie asks him if he has felt any feelings for her “as a woman”. Stanley, who has admired her talents as a mystic and is grateful to her for opening his eyes to a new worldview, is taken aback and admits that he has not thought of her that way. She leaves upset. The next day Stanley holds a press conference to tell the world that he, who spent his life debunking charlatan mystics, has finally come to find one who is the real deal. The reporters drill him with questions, but the grilling is interrupted when he receives news his aunt Vanessa has been in a car accident. Stanley rushes to the hospital, and in an emotional scene in a waiting room considers turning to prayer for solace. That is, if he now has come to believe in divination and mysticism, perhaps he should believe in God and prayer. He begins to pray for a miracle to save his aunt, but is unable to go through with it. The rationality that has been his whole life comes back and he rejects prayer, the supernatural and by extension, Sophie and her powers. He decides once more to prove she is a fraud.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Using a trick seen earlier in his stage act, Stanley appears to leave the room but stays to overhear Sophie and Howard discuss their collusion in what has been an elaborate ruse. He discovers that Sophie was able to know so much about him and his aunt because she and Howard collaborated to fool Stanley. Sophie was indeed a charlatan tricking the rich American family and was quickly discovered by Howard. Rather than unmask her and stop the ruse, he enlisted Sophie to help him one-up his best friend and rival, Stanley.Hamish Linklater and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Stanley is initially angry at Howard and Sophie but decides to forgive them. In a conversation with his aunt Vanessa, who has recovered from her car accident, Stanley admits and fully realizes that he is in love with Sophie. He finds her and asks her not to marry Brice, but marry him instead. Sophie is taken aback and finds his haughty, awkward proposal unsuitable. She tells him she still plans to marry the wealthy Brice. Returning dejected to his aunt Vanessa’s, Stanley further admits that he fell in love with Sophie at first sight, and, saddened, is then surprised when Sophie, who had arrived before him, knocks a spirit knock. He proposes, she accepts with a spirit knock, and they kiss as the film ends.Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight (2014)Not a classic Woody Allen but a very pleasant and lightly humorous film that older audiences in particular will enjoy.