ghosts

All posts tagged ghosts

Psychics, Sadness and Mystery in Assayas’ Personal Shopper

Published April 6, 2017 by rmpixie

Personal Shopper (2016, 1 hr, 45 mins.)

 

It’s no surprise that death is devastating for those in mourning. Missing loved ones who have passed on comes in many forms but most of us would confidently say that faith (or lack thereof) aside, we don’t really know what happens to our soul after the physical body ends. In Personal Shopper, we see one woman’s struggle with the death of her twin brother and her belief in the afterlife. It brings to light deeper questions about life and death staged before the backdrop of Paris, the fashion world, and its trappings.

Maureen (Kristen Stewart) works for a self-centered celebrity and socialite Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) as a personal shopper. Her job is to find the latest and greatest in high fashion and bring it back to her famous employer since her high profile makes it impossible to shop anonymously. Maureen has also recently lost her twin brother Lewis to a heart defect she also suffers from. His surviving partner Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz) wants to sell their house, but Maureen who is a medium, insists that Lewis will send her a sign from beyond, so she spends a few nights in his crumbling house waiting for him to appear. He was a medium like her, so her determination is fueled by his once stronger psychic abilities and their vow to make contact from the other side. When she does contact the spirit world, she also receives mysterious text messages topped off with an unexpected murder that stops her in her tracks. Maureen’s quest for answers becomes more confusing, leaving her in a state of shock and floundering for answers.

Kristin Stewart as Maureen waiting for a sign.

Personal Shopper is a horror, a film noir, a psychological thriller, and a ghost story. It is all of the above and none of the above at the same time, embracing and defying genre. Director Olivier Assayas created a film that’s in a class of its own using art, history and old school paranormal beliefs with 21st century technology and lifestyles to illustrate Maureen’s search for her brother’s spirit. It’s this artistic take that kept me riveted despite the slow burn pace.

Assayas captures Maureen’s loss well, and he also conveys the loneliness of this technological age we live in with Skype and smartphones being key methods with which she communicates. Even when she is with someone physically or electronically, she is separate, guarded, or unsure; from her shopping excursions to her Skype dates with her boyfriend. The smart phone as a thing of necessity in this day and age to stay tethered to this world also becomes an agent of isolation and intense paranoia when Maureen pleads with a nameless messenger behind the texts to reveal themselves.  Assayas takes a now commonplace device and gives it a more otherworldly, sinister presence.

Personal Shopper is also a lesson in how Maureen grieves. She throws herself into her work even though she flat out hates her fashionable job, but Paris is her main connection to her dead brother so she stays there as she waits for a ghostly sign, not ready to let go.  The world of fashion is a fleeting one; rarely delving deeply into the reality around it. Her psychic abilities seem to be stunted as she moves between posh shops in London and Paris to serve Kyra in this superficial arena. It shows how she herself seems like a spirit as she is lost between real life, the supernatural, the fashion world, and her uncertainty with what she believes and how she is perceived. Her only moment of self-awareness comes when the mysterious messenger asks her to do something forbidden, and she taps all too briefly into her desires in her confused and somewhat desperate state. It’s a strange moment in the film, but it makes sense as her character searches for a right fit, so to speak, in environments that while not hostile, aren’t hospitable to her either.

The look of the film is really beautiful. Yorick Le Saux, the cinematographer for Only Lovers Left Alive, does a wonderful job capturing the contrast of the dingy streets and stark sophistication of Paris. He is skilled at making the most of each setting, representing streetscapes and boutiques in their truest and most tangible forms. For anyone that has visited the City of Lights, you’ll feel nostalgic for its frenzied energy.

My only issue lies with the text messages and some of the ensuing actions asked of Maureen. While I really enjoyed these suspenseful interludes and there is definitely a point to them, they were problematic with some details that still remain unclear when the storyline makes a sharp turn. Stewart’s stellar performance as a tortured, uncertain and lost character written for her by Assayas, evokes a surprising amount of emotion that overshadows any inconsistencies in the narrative however, as you watch this poor soul wait for her brother to tell her something, anything as proof of an afterlife.

Personal Shopper is an artistic take on a ghost story and focuses on one woman’s uncertainty when mortality comes into question. See this film for it’s beautiful photography, a haunting performance from Stewart and an interesting albeit imperfect story about grief and the afterlife.

 

Debunker’s Delight: Ghostly Goings-on

Published September 4, 2016 by rmpixie

 

Since I’ve mentally checked out the last few weeks, I thought I would do a post about more paranormal, weird stuff, and what better source to access that than good ol’ YouTube?

I’ve been a fan of paranormal investigative shows and re-enactments for a long time, due to the fact that I’ve been surrounded by believers all my life. Ghost stories from the old country, a family member who refuses to buy antiques, especially those made out of wood since natural materials are known to hold energy, and inklings that my childhood home had a tiny bit of activity has left me with a somewhat accepted view of the supernatural. While I’m not 100% sold, I’m certainly not putting myself in a position to deliberately and knowingly visit a haunted place. So I leave that to all the eager paranormal teams ready to put themselves in smelly, dank buildings in search of chatty ghosts. Most of the time I watch for the hopes of seeing a real ghost from the safety of my sofa, but often I just roll my eyes at the histrionics.   There have been a few things, however, I can’t quite explain that have been captured on film. The most recent comes from a new addition to the paranormal TV lineup, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

A lot of the shows are a lesson in frustration. From shrieking paranormal team members (see the long-running Most Haunted for some scares and giggles when host Yvette Fielding clutches her makeup artist and screams bloody murder when something, anything, happens), to shaky, grainy camera work, to pitch black shots that are impossible to decipher what’s going on.  I know these researchers put themselves in scary and sometimes dangerous positions, but the antics can make it less believable and more fodder for scoffing.

Some are better (or just more entertaining) than others, like Ghost Adventures. Led by Zak Bagans, this team of “ghost bros” travel the U.S. in the hopes of finding haunted activity in some of the most notorious locations. Aaron Goodwin, the team’s resident “Shaggy”, is often targeted by spirits, eliciting a “Duuuude!” and a “Whooooa!” when those spectres whisper his name. Nick Groff, who left the show in 2015, directed many episodes and was often the one that felt the physical effects of ghostly activity.

Groff now stars in his own paranormal sleuthing spectacular called Paranormal Lockdown, where he and Katrina Weidman (formerly of the TV show Paranormal State) stay locked in an allegedly haunted location to witness those on the other side. It’s here I saw something pretty hair-raising that I think will stump the staunchest skeptic. But before I get to the evidence, here are some YouTube videos of alleged paranormal activity caught on-you guessed it-blurry, shaky video! (add grains of salt here).

The U.K seems to corner the market with ghosts, so this fella who narrates for the U.K. site Top 5s not only has a nice accent, but has some cool historical info, and a piece on the Ghost Adventure dudes.

More “ghosts”…

 

…and this mysterious creatures video is interesting and hilarious at the same time, so it’s worth the 35 minutes. I believe in #20 because I worked for a cross between a  pterodactyl and Skeletor, so that ‘ish is real.  Also, #13, #12, #9, #8 (It’s a bear… or Black Phillip), #5 and #3 are just ridiculous.

 

 

I like this dude’s accent too.  Also, the ghosts…

 

And here’s another video from Top 5s:

 

Now for the pièce de resistance.  The full episode of Paranormal Lockdown that gave me the willies.  It’s the usual fare for most of the show, but I encourage you to watch the first bit for some interesting and disturbing history about this asylum.  If the suspense is killing you, head straight to the 36 minute mark to see the weirdness.

 

And here’s a bit of speculation about the actual sighting.  This dude actually gives you a good view of what they saw at the asylum, and he’s pretty stumped too!  What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Ghostbusters 2016 Ain’t ‘Fraid o’ No Ghosts, and Ain’t That Bad Either!

Published August 2, 2016 by rmpixie

ghostbusterspsot

Ghostbusters (2016, 1 hr, 56 mins.)

The revamp of the classic comedy Ghostbusters has been the subject of nerd controversy ever since word got out that there would be a new film and an all female cast.  There was the infamously hated trailer, the championed the girl power angle, and the bellyaching, diehard fans who pooh-poohed the idea and spewed purist commentary to whoever had an ear to listen.  While the nerd storm rages on, this light and silly film was a fun addition to the ghost chasing tradition.

Erin (Kristen Wiig) is a physicist eyeing a job with tenure at Columbia, but is “haunted” by a book she penned with her then friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) about the paranormal in which she strongly stated her belief in ghosts.  Erin is desperately trying to hide this fact, but the book’s discovery by a descendant of the Aldridge Mansion Ed Mulgrave (Ed Begley Jr.) has tracked not only the book down, but Erin herself in the hopes that she can help with a haunting there. Erin seeks out Abby to stop her revival of the book which jeopardizes Erin’s chances of moving up in the world.  When Abby hears about the Aldridge haunting, Erin reluctantly goes along, and they, along with Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), a kooky engineering whiz kid and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a seasoned New Yorker with a wealth of historic information about the city, begin a paranormal escapade that involves plenty of crazy antics and ectoplasm in order to save the Big Apple from ghosts once again.

I went into the theatre with no expectations.  I knew about the kerfuffle over the female cast and the purist haters, but I stayed clear of it because I didn’t want any bias for when I saw the film.  As the end credits rolled, I think the IMdb rating of 5.4 is a little harsh.  I was expecting some major story issues that veered off into far, far left field in terms of the Ghostbusters universe, but was surprised that it stayed really, almost too close to the formula of an intro to the team who then realizes there’s a threat and the subsequent resolution.  I though it was a fun, summer popcorn movie that paid homage to the franchise and I’m still wondering what the issue is.

chrisHGhostbusters

Chris Helmsworth as the hunky Kevin

Great one liners, kicky comedic timing, and the swooning over Chris Helmsworth as their handsome but ditzy receptionist Kevin hit all the right notes for something light, funny and unapologetically cute.  McKinnon and Jones steal the show, and I’m glad.  McCarthy and Wiig had their vehicle of Bridesmaids to catapult them into the comedy classic annals, leaving plenty of room for others to shine.  It could also be that McKinnon and Jones have great chemistry because they’re current castmates on SNL.  My only wish was that the surviving cast of the original 1984 film had reprised their roles instead of the random cameos placed in the film.  I think that would have made for something with a bit more substance.

And I simply don’t understand the trailer controversy.  The pointless amount of time people spent critiquing, commenting and whining over a 2-and-a-half-minute clip to promote a film that they can’t get back.  Newsflash:  Most trailers are misleading, too long, crappy or give you a false idea of what the film will be.  I didn’t see anything unusually bad about the Ghostbusters trailer, in fact, I didn’t really pay attention to it except to note the cast and that the reboot was nigh.  Another thing was all the vitriol against feminism spouted by the haters.  How Sony had some sort of “social justice” agenda.  Who knew casting four women would cause such a furor?

ghostbusters1

The Ghostbusting gals ready for battle (against ghosts…and crusty naysaying nerds…)

The character of Patty Tolan was also criticized for being a black stereotype.  I have a fine-tuned stereotype radar, and while I felt some of her wardrobe was probably considered “black” attire, and I agree with the criticism that she should have been a black scientist, her character was one of my favourites (especially during the concert scene).  She didn’t translate as “street-smart” as she is often described, but as a native New Yorker and historian, and having seen Jones’ stand-up act, she adds a bit of her shtick to the character of Patty.

I was in a theatre of mostly kids, and it was nice to hear them laughing at the gags and discovering a new take on the franchise.  There were also the older movie-goers like myself, including a woman who hooted and hollered each time an original ghostbuster made a cameo.  That made for a great time, reminded me why I liked the original and defied the lukewarm reviews floating around out there amidst all the school yard pouting about whether girl ghostbusters are better than boy ghostbusters.

Stinkers I Have Known Vol. 1

Published May 7, 2014 by rmpixie

I don’t usually like to trash films, as I have worked on a few film sets in my day, seeing the blood, sweat and tears that go into a production regardless of how bad the script, acting or sets were.  What is tragic is the hype associated with not-so-great films or a stellar performance in an otherwise terrible movie.  I have come across many in horror movie land, and can stay silent no longer, so pinch yer noses and hold yer breath because here are just a few to hold at arm’s length:

 

i am bad

I Am Bad (2012, 1 hr, 24 mins)

Well where do I start?  Taking a page from the brilliant and horrifically gruesome Maniac (2012), we are subjected to a shoddy version of the P.O.V. serial killer film.  This fella grew up with an abusive, nut job of a mother who only wanted him to be happy.  She is unfortunately hit by a car when she chases him out into traffic after an argument.  Her dying wish?  “You better be happy or mommy will hate you!”  With that to fuel him through his formative years, this guy (who remains nameless and virtually unseen throughout the film-and that’s probably for the best if he wants to work again) goes on a killing spree starting with his absentee father, a teenage girlfriend and countless other unsuspecting victims.  He finally decides to get help from a psychiatrist that his mother ironically recommended when he was a child, but the good doctor dies. This leaves his attractive assistant and PhD student, Anne, out of a job and apparently in need of a friend, which our serial killer is more than ready to be for her.  In fact, he falls in love with her and struggles with killing, which makes him happy, and not killing Anne, who makes him happy.

I was attracted to this film because the love interest was an African-American woman and hoped it would be an interesting take on the serial killer genre.  Boy was I wrong.  So what can I say about it? That it was a bad rip-off of an already classic slasher film?  That it was unsuccessful as a tongue-in-cheek comedy?  That the acting was substandard?  That the story had so many holes in it I expected moths to be flitting around?  And explain to me the cameo appearance from 80’s singer Taylor Dayne please, because I am puzzled by it.  The only redeeming aspect of this movie was Anne played by Caprice Crawford, a beautiful African-American actor based in Germany for some time.   Aside from Crawford’s engaging performance, and Jessica Makinson who played Tasha, a hilarious love interest for the killer, this movie was a stinker.  You have been warned.  As per the title, it is bad.

 

the quiet ones

The Quiet Ones (2014, 1 hr, 38 mins)

I went to see this movie with high hopes.  Some real life paranormal experiments, conducted in my home town Toronto circa 1972, was reworked into the story of a professor determined to prove Jane, a frail young woman, is suffering from mental illness instead of possession and to cure all occurrences of the supernatural.

Great premise.  Great actors, including a maniacal, riveting performance by Jared Harris as Professor Joseph Coupland, the ring leader of the whole gig.  Only problem was the story itself meandered through some salacious affairs and plodding scenes with Jane played by Bates Motel‘s  Olivia Cooke and the naive cameraman Brian played by The Hunger Games‘ Sam Claflin.  I really wanted to like this film too because I love me a Hammer film and I’m glad the studio is being revived.  There were some good jump scares that kept popping up until they started to become predictable, and some of the effects were good, but as a whole, it really put me off as I was expecting more scares, more plot and, well, just more.  If you read about the real story of the Canadian parapsychologists (which would have made a much better movie), this film is nowhere near the original experiments.  And if you miss the opening credits, you miss a good chunk of the story.  The Quiet Ones should just stay mum since this big budget stinker gets a mere “meh” from me.

 

nurse 3d

Nurse 3-D (2013, 1 hr, 24 mins)

This rambling film brings us a very enticing nurse Abby Russell (Paz de la Huerta), who is bent on bloody, gory revenge on men who cheat.  She also wants to control young nurse Danni (Katrina Bowden), who she is mentoring/obsessing over and who also becomes a threat when she finds out what Abby is up to.  These two tasks collide in a crazy, murderous plot filled with camp, blood and lots of Abby sashaying around town in some really hot outfits or in the nude.

I loved that Paz de la Huerta  played the psychotic Abby.  She is a unique actor with interesting range, and was cast really well in this film.  Not to mention the fact that a lot straight men out there would keel over watching her in various states of undress.  I just got tired of her sleepy Betty Boop voice.  The rest of the cast was really interesting too, with Kathleen Turner in a cameo alongside B-movie king Judd Nelson, Boris Kodjoe, the always fun Niecy Nash and Michael Ekland whom I love.  The problem was the script which missed the mark trying to meld a pulp fiction/drive-in/campy slasher type storyline.  As a result, the film became too convoluted to gain any momentum and to keep a proper pace.  And that sucks, because I think Nurse 3-D had real potential as a sexy slasher flick.  To sum this stinker up, if you are a straight dude with a penchant for Playboy, this movie is definitely a work of art.  If you are a gal like me, who is pretty tolerant of weird stuff on film, this gets a resounding P.U.!  And there is a rumor that a sequel is in the works.  Guess the defibrillator is going to get a workout if it becomes a franchise!

You can breathe easy now, because my list is short and sweet.  I want to believe that at some point, these films will become a late night favourite, or part of some film festival honouring movies that are so bad that they are good (ugh!).  At any rate, someone somewhere is going to love one of the above stinkers, and I think that’s o.k because nobody’s perfect.  To each his own, but I got me some standards.  If you have seen some recent time wasters, please let me know.  I may check them out when I feel like punishing myself!  Until next time dear reader, until next time…

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