Pierce Pioneer

“Ma” is entertaining yet lacks substance

Anna Kooris / Universal Pictures
From Left: Maggie (Diana Silvers), Erica (Juliette Lewis, back to camera) and Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) in ‘Ma.’

Marge Simpson, Peggy Hill, Kitty Forman… are some of the most known on-screen mothers of our time. But, as amazing as being a mother is, filmmakers are always looking for ways to put a new spin on it. The new thriller “Ma” which recently arrived at theaters mixes the loving mother figure with a disturbing tale. Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures,…) is an actress who is usually cast for roles with brighter and more innocent personalities. With “Ma,” Spencer sheds the usual wholesome personalities that she always plays and explores a darker side.

The film centers around a group of high school rebels. In an attempt to get alcohol, they meet Sue Ann (Spencer) a seemingly sweet woman, who after some hesitation, buys them liquor. She then invites them to a party at her house, and they gladly accept. In a short time, her basement becomes the best party place in town. However, as the group gets to know her, they start to uncover a more sinister side. Now, she thirsts for revenge to right the wrongs from her past.

Actress Octavia Spencer puts on a disturbing performance in “Ma.” People who are usually acquainted with her more “innocent” roles may be shock as she progressively becomes creepier in every scene. Every time she is on screen, audiences can sense that something is “off” with her. Her subtle facial expressions and ominous delivery adds to the foreboding ambiance of the film. The actress carries the entire movie with her disarming presence.

Anna Kooris / Universal Pictures
McKaley Miller as Haley (Left) and Octavia Spencer as Sue Ann (Right).

Though “Ma” is more of a thriller than a full fledged horror movie, it features gore that might make some moviegoers cringe. The whole film is creepy in nature, and the blood is the “cherry on top.” The filmmakers put in a handful of tension building moments, and the movie does not shy away from getting “suggestive.” One scene in particular has the potential to make people uncomfortable with what it shows. Though one could argue that it was done for “shock value,” it is still quite effective.

The dynamics between the teenagers are also well-established. Despite not being on par with the main star, the young actors put on a good show. They are believable as a group of high school students as they try to find fun in the more “naughty” activities such as drinking. What they do and what they say are realistic for the most part. This gives audience members a break from the more tense scenes.

With that being said, the group is quite generic in terms of character tropes. There is the “sexy blonde chick,” the “wide-eyed innocent” and everything else in the book. As good as these people are, it still feels wooden in the use of slang and sometimes sounds forced.

The movie explores the character of Sue Ann’s past with the use of flashbacks. This provides audiences with information about her early days. Even though her childhood is made clear by the end of the film, it is still vague on how she could have started her ominous revenge plan. Besides that, the ending is also bland and somewhat predictable.

Overall, “Ma” is certainly no bad movie, but it is not a “must-see.” The intrigue of Octavio Spencer as a psychopath may make viewers enjoy the film. However, they might look back and think that “Ma” is rather basic. With such a skillful actress, the movie should have been better and more satisfying.

 

What to watch out for in June

Ciara Williams / Staff Illustration

Summer movies are often known for high octane and thrilling spirits. This season, studios are bringing the excitement in a variety of ways, from a musical legend story to big-budget monsters. Here are six that viewers can put on their must-watch list.

imdb.com / Courtesy Photo

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” 

May  31,  2019

In 2014, Warner Bros. studio blew audience away with its electrifying reboot of the famous Japanese monster “Godzilla”. Now, the beloved creature is back, and is expected to destroy cities and people once again in the sequel. 

According to Comicbook.com, movie studios Legendary and Warner Bros. said that Godzilla is part of a universe which also features King Kong. Called the “MonsterVerse”, it is Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The movie uses the latest computer-generated technology and showcases a lineup of the expected powerful creatures such as Mothra and Ghidorah. 

The cast stars Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Ken Wantanabe (The Last Samurai).

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“Rocketman” 

May  31,  2019

Movies about musicians were big last year. with “Bohemian Rhapsody” taking home an Oscar for Best Actor, and “A Star is Born” receiving nominations in a variety of categories therefore, makes sense for a movie about the life story of Elton John to come out. Rami Malek did a wonderful job portraying Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and now Taron Egerton (Kingsmen: The Secret Service) will take the role of Elton John. 

Fans of the musician can expect Egerton to give an entertaining performance as well as focusing more on Elton John as a troubled soul. Where “Bohemian Rhapsody” stayed mostly true to Freddie Mercury, “Rocketman” takes side trips into “what-if” story lines. Aside from Egerton, the movie features Richard Madden (Bodyguard), and Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World). 

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“The Secret Life of Pets 2”

June  7,  2019

While the prequel of “The Secret Life of Pets” rehashed the basic “Toy Story” idea, the movie got mostly positive reviews, as seen on Rotten Tomatoes. Louis C.K. is not returning for the sequel, so Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) is the voice of the main character, Max the dog. The terrier is back, this time introduced to another family member a young boy named Liam who Max has sworn to protect. 

Max has to learn to overcome his protectiveness, and let the kid have his freedom. The first movie was simple, straight-forward and did the job well, but fell into the hole of gimmicks.

 Additionally, like the original film, there is a chance that the humor content may be inappropriate for younger kids. Other returning characters are Snowball, (Kevin Hart), Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and Gidget (Jenny Slate)

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“Dark Phoenix”  

June 7,  2019

The sequel train continues with Dark Phoenix, the newest installment to Marvel’s X-Men franchise. While the franchise has gone through some ups and downs, it has attracted a loyal fan base. 

In the movie, the main character Jean Grey has to suppress her power, which is becoming unstable, That leads her to spiral out of control, and now the X-Men have to battle Dark Phoenix, Jean’s mutant self. 

The writer of the previous “X-Men” films “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” Simon Kinberg, is in charge of directing the movie. This installment features Sophie Turner of “Game of Thrones” fame as the title role along with the familiar cast of James McAvoy (Split), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds).

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“Toy Story 4” 

June 21,  2019

The first “Toy Story” movie came out in 1995, and it changed the landscape of animated movies forever, with its unprecedented 3-D animation technology. Fifteen years later, “Toy Story 3” was released, perfectly wrapping up the storyline in a trilogy. However, in recent years, Disney announced the next installment to the seemingly complete franchise. 

The new movie can go either way in terms of quality. Regardless, fans of Woody and Buzz Lightyear will get a chance to visit these lovable characters once again. 

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are reprising their roles of Woody and Buzz, along with Annie Potts (Ghostbusters 1984) Keanu Reeves (John Wick) Jordan Peele (Key and Peele) and Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele).

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“Annabelle Comes Home” 

June 26, 2019

Summer is not only for big budget action movies but also horror movies as well. Annabelle is back with “Annabelle Comes Home,” a new movie in the Conjuring Universe, the horror counterpart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Annabelle, the doll, first appeared in “The Conjuring”, then became the main character in her own movie and the sequel. 

After being locked in the artifacts room by two paranormal experts, Ed and Lorraine Warren, Annabelle start reigning terror on their daughter with other evil spirits. 

The terrifying universe has been hit and miss, “Annabelle: Creation” got a 70 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The main cast includes Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring) and Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring).

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is heavy in beast, light in characters

WARNER BROS. PICTURE / Courtesy Photo

Godzilla is one of the most symbolic monsters that has ever been created. When the name is mentioned, most people can easily picture an enormous lizard-like creature that stands taller than a skyscraper. This creature has been the star of many different films throughout history; the most recent one was “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” a sequel to 2014’s “Godzilla.” The predecessor used impressive visuals and included a provoking storyline. This time, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” promises a line-up of even more terrifying monsters. Can this new installment to the series wreak havoc in theaters?

This sequel sees a new beast named King Ghidorah, a three-headed dragon, awoken from a “cryosleep.” The creature quickly summons other creatures on Earth and becomes the nemesis of Godzilla himself. Now a group of monster zoologists must fight to save humanity from extinction.

With a premise like that, this movie could be the “Avengers” of the “MonsterVerse,” the Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With that, it brings one of the most impressive visual feasts that audiences can pay a ticket to enjoy. There is quite an amount of monster glory to look forward to in the film. Seeing new creatures interacting with each other perfectly illustrates the ecosystem of these towering animals.

The designs of the monsters are beautifully done, giving off an intimidating vibe, especially with the giant butterfly Mothra. In the battle sequences, these creatures look like they have substance which results in the realistic destruction of buildings, ships, cities… The star of the movie Godzilla is bombastic, loud and grand along with King Ghidorah, who is effectively menacing. In some scenes, the movie perfectly conveys how humans are merely lowly insects to the creatures which generates even more of a formidable ambiance

Warner Bros. Entertainment / Courtesy Photo
The big lizard gets angry in ‘Godzilla: King of The Monsters.’

Like the first movie, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” treats these titans as if they were animals and not villains. Similar to “Jurassic Park,” as frightening as these creatures are, they are still animals trying to survive. This adds a new edge to the movie and asks the question whether humans can co-exist with these colossal beings. The destruction these monsters bring is almost justifiable as some may say that they do not know any better.

Despite the monsters, the movie is quite flat. The human characters are almost forgettable. Although the movies have some incredible talents like Milly Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) and Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) their characters are not memorable, and thus, the great acting has little impact. Though the actors definitely try to work with what was given to them, the plot is still boring. The scenes involving these characters can drag on sometimes, and the movie, as a result, feels too long.

As amazing as the monster sequences are, the combination with the humans scenes can make the entire experience tiresome. The center plot involving the family members is both vague and somewhat unnecessary. The tension between the mother (Vera Farmiga) and the father (Kyle Chandler) is not well explained. As for the military sequences, they are both dull and generic.

This time around, it looks like “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” does not have quite as much of a roar as the first one. If one expects breathtaking battles between the monsters, they may be bored in the character heavy scenes. If they expect a memorable storyline, they might be even more disappointed with the movie. Either way, it is not as good as the trailers suggest.

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