REVIEW: BATES MOTEL – SEASON 4

CAST

Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring)
Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland)
Max Thieriot (House at The End of The Street)
Olivia Cooke (Ouija)
Nestor Carbonell (Lost)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Damon Gupton (Whiplash)
Jaime Ray Newman (Veronica Mars)
Andrew Howard (Agents of Shield)
Terence Kelly  (The Beachcombers)
Ryan Hurst (Taken)
Aliyah O’Brien (Smallville)
Kevin Rahm (Nightcrawler)
Alessandro Juliani (BAttlestar Galactica)
Kenny Johsnon (Cold Case)
Lindsey Ginter (Lost)
Carmen Moore (Artic Air)
Jay Brazeau (highlander: The Series)
Molly Price (Third Watch)
Karina Logue (Scream: The Series)
Louis Ferreira (Stargate Universe)
Keenan Tracey (The Hunters)
Anna Hagan (Highlander: The Series)

Image result for BATES MOTEL Goodnight, MotherBates Motel’s best and most tragic season to date zeroed in on Norman’s mental maladies while also bringing Sheriff Romero into the family fold. Also, gone was the idea of the “local bad guy of the season” and in its place was a much more focused, emotional story of a young man with dangerous problems and a mother incapable of seeing beyond her co-dependency.Image result for BATES MOTEL Til Death Do You PartIn fact, not many threads remain un-snipped as we now head into the show’s final bow. Romero will most certainly have an axe to grind with Norman. And Dylan and Emma could easily be brought back into the story somehow. Their arc represented a shred of happiness this season so it’s only fitting that they return to the darkness as all will most likely end badly for those who aren’t Norman. The way this season ended, given the final two episodes, it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to just jump ahead to the Hitchcock movie. The daring move was made to kill of Norma in the penultimate episode, leaving Norman alone in a house full of illusions. A snow globe that he’s now made for himself, and one that he’ll probably protect vehemently and violently. And so aside from all the characters who still remain on the show, who could come knocking on Norman’s door, he’s set. He’s the younger version of the character we’ve come to know as a horror icon. All that’s left is a little spring cleaning.Image result for bates motel unfaithfulWhich might easily make this season the most effective and dramatic of the bunch. Not just given the fact that Norma got killed off, but because Norman himself was also ready to die. He’d reached a savage impasse. He’d first blamed his mother for his own crimes but then came to realize, truthfully, that he didn’t know himself at all. And was perhaps responsible. He never came to a hard answer, but the ambiguity was enough to bring him to a dark place where he thought the both of them dying would be a good thing.Image result for bates motel FOREVERFor the first time too, Nestor Carbonell’s Romero felt like a vital part of the story and not someone who wandered around giving Norma the side-eye. And the quick, honest relationship he had with Norma this year (which began as a marriage of convenience – and guilt) was a nice surprise. A flickering pause of happiness for Norma while Norman was off at Pineview. Albeit briefly, she was allowed to be in a bubble with someone else. All while Norman got better at both manipulating and resenting.Image result for bates motel FOREVERBates Motel’s haunting and focused fourth season brought Norman to an extreme breaking point. One that unexpectedly cost him dearly as a huge character exited the show before we expected. This was the year that Norman both realized that he was dangerously unstable and realized that he preferred to ignore that fact and live in a delusional world of his own mad design. There are those out there who can still call Norman’s actions into question, but for now this is the man who will believably grow into Norman Bates from the classic horror franchise.

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REVIEW: BATES MOTEL – SEASON 1-3

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CAST

Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring)
Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland)
Max Thieriot (House at The End of The Street)
Olivia Cooke (Ouija)
Nicola Peltz (Trasformers 4)
Nestor Carbonell (Lost)
Kenny Johnson (Cold Case)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

W. Earl Brown (Deadwood)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Final Destination 2)
Mike Vogel (Cloverfield)
Terry Chen (Almost Famous)
Vincent Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Brittney Wilson (Rogue)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Ian Hart (Michael Collins)
Aliyah O’Brien (If I Stay)
Ian Tracey (Sanctuary)
Jere Burns (Justified)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Alexander Calvert (Arrow)
Keenan Tracey (Rags)
Michael O’Neill (Sebiscuit)
Rebecca Creskoff (Quintuplets)
Michael Eklund (Watchmen)
Brendan Fletcher (Smallville)
Paloma Kwiatkowski (Perry Jackson)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
Michael Vartan (Alias)
Andrew Airlie (Final Destination 2)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Kathleen Robertson (Hollywoodland)
Tracy Spiridakos (Revolution)
Kevin Rahm (Mad Men)
Ryan Hurst (Saving Private Ryan)
Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project)
Peter Stebbings (Never Cry Werewolf)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)

If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today, I’ve got a feeling he’d enjoy Bates Motel. This kinda-sorta prequel re-imagines the story of Norman Bates, his equally unbalanced mom Norma and their relationship at the business that bears their name, mixing the ordinary and the bizarre with unpredictable, broad strokes in a more modern setting. Hitchcock always intended his classic film as a pitch-black comedy…and from that perspective, Bates Motel shares a few similarities beyond its central characters and the all-too-familiar motel grounds.Filmed in British Columbia, the show’s foggy appearance and small-town backdrop will immediately remind viewers of landmark shows like Twin Peaks and The X-Files. It feels like a perfect fit, reminding us that we’re either in the midst of trouble…or it’s just around the corner. More often than not, however, Bates Motel is just as much “comedy” as it is “pitch-black”, piling on mountains of over-the-top absurdity that, for unknown reasons, feels kinda normal within the series’ unusual boundaries. As a total package, this is compulsively watchable, suspenseful, goofy, dramatic and, above all else, unpredictable television.Such unpredictability can be a massive gamble…but much like Psycho (and by extension, Robert Bloch’s original novel), Bates Motel has been designed to keep its audience perpetually off-balance. At the same time, there’s a constant cloud of guilt, paranoia and dread floating above this season, magnified by the unpredictable behavior of Norman (Freddy Highmore) and his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in the face of several horrifying events: one leads them to White Pines Bay, and the others happen after they arrive. The immediate and focused suspicion of watchful sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) makes us wonder if he’s just extremely good at what he does…or if, in fact, he’s secretly pulling the strings. As the initial story arc gradually shifts midway through this first season, lies multiply, layers of mystery keep us interested in this small town and, eventually, we realize that just about everyone’s a villain here.

This first season of Bates Motel includes ten episodes and several new characters, from Dylan Bates (Norman’s rebellious half-brother, played by Max Thieriot) to the amusingly named junior detective Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) and popular student Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz), who is substantially more feminine than her name implies. The casting and performances are universally excellent, especially our unpredictable leads and the countless scenes they have with each other and outsiders. Vera Farmiga is especially impressive from start to finish, consistently stealing her scenes with reckless abandon and deliciously black humor. It’s just one more reason why Bates Motel is more than the sum of its parts.

Season Two expands on these characters and, not surprisingly, adds in a few more for good measure; it makes Bates Motel feel more complex without being overcrowded. Standouts include Caleb (Kenny Johnson, The Shield), Norma’s estranged brother; Zane Morgan (Michael Eklund), the new drug kingpin whose hot-blooded personality leads to an all-out war; Jodi Wilson (Kathleen Robertson), Zane’s sister and the real mastermind of the operation; Christine Heldens (Rebecca Creskoff), an exhausting social butterfly who takes Norma under her wing; George Heldens (Michael Vartan, Alias), Christine’s brother and a potential love interest for Norma; Nick Ford (Michael O’Neill), a “friend” of the Heldens’ with deep political connections; and Cody Brennen (Paloma Kwiatkowski), a rebellious girl who helps Norman come out of his shell, for better or worse. What’s more is that, despite their shared running time with Bates Motel’s established cast, there are very few lags during this ten-episode season. Even Emma Decody, who felt like an afterthought during the first year—and Season Two’s first half, especially—is given more to do in later episodes, and she’s all the better for it.

On the whole, then, this character-driven season path gives Bates Motel even more potential for future seasons. Much like NBC’s Hannibal, this series builds on an established franchise successfully and, as a result, plays out much better than expected. Production values are high, giving Bates Motel a potent, effective atmosphere from start to finish.

Soon after the events of the second season, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) begins his senior year at school. He experiences hallucinations there, so his mother, Norma Louise (Vera Farmiga), decides to homeschool him. After Norma’s mother dies, her brother Caleb (Kenny Johnson) returns to town, seeking to bond with Dylan (Max Thieriot). Norman takes a liking to new guest, Annika Johnson (Tracy Spiridakos), but she later goes missing. When searching Annika’s motel room, Norma finds an invitation to a gentlemen’s club. She infiltrates the club, but Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) catches her and promises to look for Annika. Romero later asks Norma to identify a woman’s body, and she is relieved that it is not Annika.

Romero meets with Bob Paris (Kevin Rahm), who runs the gentlemen’s club, to get information about Annika. Norma meets psychology professor James Finnigan (Joshua Leonard), who offers her his assistance. Norman has a blackout and submerges himself in a bathtub, hoping to recall whether he had anything to do with Annika’s disappearance. Norma saves him from drowning, then goes to lock up the motel. Annika arrives with a gunshot wound, gives Norma a USB flash drive, and dies. Norma is determined to access the password protected flash drive, and asks Dylan to help decrypt it. Norman follows Dylan to his cabin one night, discovering Caleb. He threatens to tell their mother, but Dylan begs him not to spoil the good relationship he has been building with her. Bob ransacks the motel office in search of the USB drive. Later, a man runs Norma off the road and tells her to give Bob the flash drive. Dylan insists that Norma should give the USB to Romero. Norman becomes confused over recent events, thinking he has already told Norma about Caleb when he hasn’t. Romero meets with Bob again, who admits he wants the flash drive back but won’t reveal its contents. Dylan’s friend Gunner (Keenan Tracey) decrypts the USB, finding a financial ledger inside from the town’s illegal drug trade.Bob agrees to a motel billboard near the bypass in exchange for the USB. When Norma is told of Caleb’s return, she packs a suitcase and storms out. Arriving in Portland, she buys a new outfit, trades her car, and ends up at James’ house, where she confesses that Norman killed his father during one of his blackouts. Dylan struggles with Norman’s separation anxiety, which includes an episode where Norman assumes Norma’s personality and wears her robe. Romero is shot and hospitalized; Marcus Young (Adetomiwa Edun) visits and tells him that his time as sheriff is nearing an end. Romero follows Marcus to the parking garage and kills him. Norma realizes that she is still a mother and returns home. She honors her sons’ wishes to meet with Caleb, who breaks down and apologizes upon seeing her.

Dylan grows closer to Emma (Olivia Cooke), learning from her father that she is a lot sicker than she lets on. Romero discovers his mother’s name on the ledger and confrontations his father in jail. His father used his mother’s name in order to get drugs into the prison. After being attacked by Norman, James tells Norma that he needs help. Norma cooks a family dinner in order to get closer to Norman. She invites Caleb, whose presence angers Norman, and Dylan invites Emma. Bob abducts and tortures James to get information about Norma. He then tells Romero about Norma’s relationship with James, and that Norman killed his father. Romero ends his friendship with Norma when she maintains that her husband died in an accident.

James tells Norma that he told Bob everything, and skips town. Dylan takes a risky job in order to gain money for Emma’s lung transplant. Following a blackout, Norman discovers Bradley (Nicola Peltz) has returned to town. After finding out that her mother has quickly recovered after her “death”, Bradley initiates sex with Norman, but he envisions Norma there and leaves. Norma tells Bob she’ll give him the flash drive, but he states that she has nothing left to bargain with. Desperate, Norma ransacks Romero’s house to find the USB, only to learn from Romero that the DEA is investigating it. Their heated argument hinges on her stating the truth about her husband’s death. She ultimately says that they both know who killed him.

Before Caleb leaves town again, he tells Norma about Norman assuming her personality and attacking him. Dylan gives Emma’s father the money for her lung transplant, but later gets a call from him saying that Emma has disappeared. Dylan finds her, and she informs him of her fears about the surgery; the two then kiss. Romero calls Bob to warn him of his impending arrest. Bob goes to the marina and finds Romero there, who shoots him dead. Norman plans to leave town with Bradley and argues with his mother about his mental state. She knocks Norman unconscious and drags him to the basement. Norman escapes and runs off with Bradley. In Norma’s persona, he pulls Bradley out of the car and kills her. He then rolls the car into the bay, as he and his “mother” watch it submerge.Image result for bates motel UnconsciousI really loved all the seasons! this season is even better and more intense! Norman and Norma just keep getting better! The reunion with Norma’s brother was seriously touching! The hooker was great! Norman’s expressions get really psycho looking! Just such great, great acting! It is so much fun! It is funny, yet, disturbing and all at once!! This show is just phenomenal.

REVIEW: THE QUIET ONES

CAST

Jared Harris (Pompeii)
Sam Claflin (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Erin Richards (Gotham)
Rory Fleck Byrne (Bodies)
Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel)

Having hit the international jackpot with “The Woman in Black,” the revived Hammer Films label follows up with a title that lacks that haunted-house pic’s familiarity of source material, highly accessible premise and equivalently marketable star. Instead, “The Quiet Ones” presents rising actor Sam Claflin as an average guy participating in an ethically dubious scientific experiment into psychic disturbance. The 1970s setting offers a retro feel that should strike appealing chords for fans of old-school horror.May 1974, Oxford. Local lad Brian McNeil (Claflin), who works in the university’s audiovisual unit, is projecting archival research material to accompany a lecture delivered by paranormal psychology expert Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris). Would the young man be willing to film the professor’s potentially groundbreaking work with a profoundly disturbed woman named Jane Harper. The treatment seems less than academically rigorous — for some reason, Jane is subjected to music hits such as Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” at deafening volumes — but an intrigued Brian agrees.

After getting shut down by a nervous university establishment, Coupland’s pet project is happily relocated to more photogenic accommodations in a sprawling country estate. There, the professor, the cameraman and two romantically entangled students — Krissi (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) — hunker down with traumatized Jane in a bid to monitor and extract her “negative brain energy.” “Cure one patient, we cure mankind,” declares a messianic Coupland.

Exactly how the university employees and students are able to abruptly abandon their jobs and studies in the middle of the summer term — or where, for that matter, Brian’s footage (which is in fact shot digitally on the Arri Alexa) is being developed and printed — is left to the viewer’s imagination. Instead, attention is pulled toward the highly arresting Jane and her malignant alter ego, Evey, who resides in a child’s plastic doll. B

An easy diagnosis for Jane would be demonic possession, especially when devilish symbols start appearing on skin, and the temperature of Krissi’s bath water is raised to the boiling point, even after she and Harry have returned to the ostensible safety of campus. Really, just how far can Jane’s negative telekinetic energy go? But Coupland resists any supernatural explanations, stubbornly clinging to his own scientific hypothesis right up until the hectic climax.The presence of Brian’s camera gives director John Pogue (“Quarantine 2: Terminal”) plenty of opportunity to throw in found-footage verite as well as jittery handheld sequences, and few will worry too much about the film’s lax standards with regard to its self-filmed conceit. The opening credits make use of that oft-abused expression “inspired by actual events,” and indeed, the story here is based on an actual case in which Toronto researchers attempted to harvest their own emotional energy. The big leap from that particular scientific investigation to the freaky occurrences depicted here needn’t trouble us unduly, but the fact remains that Dr. A.R.G. Owen’s real-life “Philip Experiment” doesn’t sound interesting enough to give Lionsgate and Hammer much of an additional marketing hook equivalent to, say, the paranormal investigators whose work inspired “The Conjuring.”

REVIEW: OUIJA

CAST

Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel)
Ana Coto (Disconnected)
Daren Kagasoff (Delirium)
Bianca A. Santos (The Duff)
Douglas Smith (Big love)
Shelley Hennig (The Secret Circle)
Lin Shaye (Insidious)
Matthew Settle (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer)

Ouija is a 2014 American supernatural horror-thriller film directed by Stiles White and co-written by White and Juliet Snowden. The film stars Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith and Bianca A. Santos.

The film opens with a young Laine Morris and Debbie Galardi playing with a Ouija board in Laine’s room, only to be interrupted by Laine’s sister Sarah. The scene then forwards to present day, where Debbie (Shelley Hennig) is playing with the board by herself and is so unnerved by what she experiences that she tries to burn the board and planchette before calling Laine (Olivia Cooke). Concerned, Laine comes over but is sent away by Debbie, who goes upstairs only to find the board on her bed. Her eyes turn white and she hangs herself. The following day, Laine is with her boyfriend Trevor (Daren Kagasoff) at a diner, where they meet up with their friend Isabelle (Bianca A. Santos).

Laine receives a text and goes home, learning of Debbie’s death. After the funeral, Laine finds Debbie’s Ouija board and decides to gather Sarah, Trevor, Isabelle, and Debbie’s boyfriend Pete (Douglas Smith) to hold a seance. They make contact with someone who is identified as D, who Laine immediately believes is Debbie. Despite this, the group is too frightened to continue playing. A couple nights later, they’re drawn back to the board after each person finds the message “hi friend” in various locations. Upon further interaction with the board, the group discovers that the spirit is not Debbie. Laine looks through the planchette and sees a young girl with her mouth stitched closed, who then warns the group to run from her mother. The group heads home, only for a malicious spirit to follow Isabelle and murder her.

Trevor and Laine research Debbie’s house and find that a young girl was placed in a mental institution after killing her mother, who she claims killed her sister, Doris. The two travel to the institution and meet Paulina Zander, who states that their mother killed Doris and sewed her mouth shut because she believed that spirits were trying to communicate through her. Trevor and Laine head home and unleash the spirits of Doris and Mrs. Zander. Doris overcomes her mother and the group believes that everything has been resolved. Unfortunately, this is not true as Pete is later killed by Doris.

Laine confronts Paulina about this, only to realize that Doris and Paulina were the evil ones and that Mrs. Zander was trying to stop them. Laine’s grandmother tells them that the only way to stop the ghost is to burn Doris’s body and the Ouija board. Trevor is also killed before Sarah manages to locate the corpse. Both Sarah and Laine are attacked by Doris and it is only through the intervention of Debbie’s spirit that the girls survive and manage to burn Doris’s corpse and the Ouija board, destroying Doris. The two sisters return home, only for Laine to find the planchette waiting for her in her room.

Ouija is a great horror, but went so underrated by many horror fans.