Room

A24

Rated R for profanity

Kidnap Victims’ Harrowing Ordeal Chronicled In Adaptation Of Emma Donoghue Best Seller

What would it be like to be five years old and have lived your entire life inside a backyard shed about 10′ by 10′? And suppose you were being raised there by a kidnap victim who’d been caged and repeatedly raped by her psychopathic abductor since she was 17?

That is precisely the predicament of Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the young narrator of Room, an intriguing suspense flick adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own best seller of the same name. Directed by Dubliner Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), the film is a thought-provoking affair apt to have audiences squirming uncomfortably in their seats for the duration of the claustrophobic, endurance test.

The story unfolds almost entirely inside their veritable prison and from the narrow point-of-view of a naive child shielded by his well-meaning mom (Brie Larson) from the fact that they’re being held against their will by a monster who also happens to be his father. For, it is ostensibly her desire to give Jack as normal a childhood as possible under the circumstances, while she waits to be rescued or for an opportunity to make a break from their cell. That way, the boy might not lose his mind in the dungeon and have less of an adjustment to make if they are ever finally freed.

Make no mistake, Room is one of those movies one must endure, rather than expect to enjoy. In that regard, it is reminiscent of Das Boot (1981), the World War II undersea epic which transpires almost entirely inside the close quarters of a German U-boat. This picture offers an even more oppressive experience in that you feel confined to a much tinier amount of space.

What makes Room unique, cinematically, is its ingenious juxtaposition of the mother and son’s psychological perspectives. To Ma, their ongoing predicament is a living Hell. For instance, she cringes any time her tormentor (Sean Bridgers) unlocks the door, since she doesn’t know what evil deed might be on his agenda. By contrast, this is the only world Jack has ever known, and he exhibits a typical tyke’s playfulness and insatiable curiosity, behavior which his mother does her best to accommodate, despite the limitations.

Overall, Room is a riveting tour de force featuring a pair of powerful performances by co-stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. The pair generate such chemistry that you never doubt that they’re a parent and child stuck in the worst of circumstances.

A few years back, Ms. Larson made a big splash in her breakout role as Grace in the critically-acclaimed Short Term 12. I wouldn’t be surprised if the talented actress were to land an Oscar nomination for her nonpareil work here as an exasperated mother straining to keep it together for the sake of a son she loves, despite his being the fruit of a demon seed.

A terrifying tale of survival told by an innocent blissfully unaware of his perilous plight.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 113 minutes

 

 

Goosebumps

Sony Pictures

Rated PG for scary images, intense action and rude humor

Monsters Run Amok In Delightful Adaptation Of Family-Friendly Fright Franchise

Launched by Robert Lawrence Stine in 1992, Goosebumps is a phenomenally-popular series of spooky stories carefully-crafted to scare the bejesus out of 7- to 12-year-olds. The so-called Stephen King of kiddie literature has published hundreds of titles over the years, selling about a half-billion books worldwide and counting. Goosebumps has been spun off into a TV show and video games, so it makes sense that it would be brought to the big screen, too.

Directed by Rob Letterman, the picture stars the terminally-impish Jack Black as R. L. Stine, although the author he’s portraying does make a cameo appearance during a mob scene. The movie marks the reunion of Letterman and Black who in 2010 collaborated on a poorly-received remake of Gulliver’s Travels.

This production is likely to fare far better, since it has a built-in audience already weaned on the books. Plus, the adolescents’ appetites have been further whetted by the prerelease of a product line of Goosebumps tie-ins, including posters, games, stationery, Halloween costumes, plush toys, clothes and accessories. Not that the movie version needs any help, as the combination live-action/animated adventure proves to be quite entertaining in its own right.

At the point of departure, we find teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) and his recently-widowed mom (Amy Ryan) grieving their loss and sorely in need of a change of scenery, which explains their moving to the town of Madison, Delaware. Their new, next-door neighbor, Mr. Stine (Black), is a reclusive grouch who warns the boy right off the bat to keep off his property and to stay away from his home-schooled daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush). But it’s obviously love at first sight for Zach, who is instantly smitten with the attractive girl his own age.

On his first day of classes at Madison High, he proceeds to make fast friends with a nerdy loner named Champ (Ryan Lee). After school, the mischievous pair’s curiosity gets the better of them, and they trespass onto the Stine’s premises.

Upon entering the house, they rummage around the author’s mysterious manuscripts hidden in the basement, thereby unwittingly unleashing an army of monsters. They’re all characters mined from Mr. Stine’s fertile imagination: a giant praying mantis, the Abominable Snowman, the werewolf, lawn gnomes, zombies, Venus fly traps, the Invisible Boy, and so on.

What’s more, they’re doing the bidding of a diabolical dummy bent on major mayhem in Madison, if not world domination. Can the creatures be corralled and safely redeposited between the covers of the author’s journal? Can Zach win the heart of Hannah in spite of the objections of her overprotective father? Don’t be surprised if this episode ends satisfactorily while simultaneously setting us up for a sequel.

A family-friendly romp providing just the perfect blend of light-hearted humor and spine-tingling fright fare to scare and delight kids of all ages!

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 103 minutes

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening October 16, 2015

 

Bridge Of Spies (PG-13 for violence and brief profanity) Cold War thriller about a lawyer (Tom Hanks) recruited by the CIA to represent an American spy (Austin Stowell) whose surveillance plane was shot down behind the Iron Curtain in 1960. With Amy Ryan, Alan Alda and Eve Hewson.

 

Crimson Peak (R for sexuality, graphic violence and brief profanity) Gothic horror film, set in England in the 19th Century, about a troubled author (Mia Wasikowska) who, after a whirlwind romance, marries an aristocrat (Tom Hiddleston) and moves into a haunted house he shares with his sister (Jessica Chastain). Cast includes Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver and Doug Jones.

 

All Things Must Change (Unrated) Music biz documentary revisiting the rise and demise of Tower Records. Featuring commentary by Chris Cornell, Chuck D., Elton John and David Geffen.

 

A Ballerina’s Tale (Unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the ascension of Misty Copeland from humble rootsin California to prima ballerina in Manhattan with the American Ballet Theatre company. Including commentary by Deirdre Kelly, Susan Fales-Hill and Gilda Squire.

 

Experimenter (PG-13 for mature themes and brief profanity) Peter Sarsgaard portrays Stanley Milgram in this biopic about the legendary social scientist’s famous study of humans’ willingness to obey authority. Ensemble cast includes Winona Ryder, Dennis Haysbert, Jim Gaffigan, Kellan Lutz, John Leguizamo and Vondie Curtis-Hall.

 

Meadowland (R for profanity, drug use and graphic sexuality) Marriage on the rocks saga, set in New York City, examining the emotional rift which develops between a cop (Luke Wilson) and his wife (Olivia Wilde) in the wake of their young son’s mysterious disappearance. With Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple and John Leguizamo.

 

Tab Hunter Confidential (Unrated) Out-of-the-closet biopic recounting how the Fifties matinee idol hid his homosexuality until finally publishing a tell-all autobiography a half-century after his heyday. Featuring commentary by Clint Eastwood, Debbie Reynolds and Connie Stevens.

 

This Changes Everything (Unrated) Global warming documentary examining the effect of climate change in seven locales around the world, including communities in America, India, China, Canada and Germany.

 

Truth (R for profanity and a nude photo) Broadcast ethics is the theme of this thriller about the news story which cost CBS ‘ Dan Rather (Robert Redford) his career. With Cate Blanchett, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid and Bruce Greenwood.

 

Woodlawn (PG for mature themes and racial tensions) Fact-based, coming-of-age saga, set in 1973, recalling how a black football star (Caleb Castille) and his white football coach (Nicholas Bishop) joined forces to alleviate tensions across the color line at a Birmingham, Alabama high school. Featuring Jon Voight, Sean Astin and Sherri Shepherd.

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