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‘Mara’ Review

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Genre : Horror
Rating : R
Director: Clive Tonge

Cast:
Olga Kurlyenko
Javier Botet
Craig Conway

Few things sound as terrifying as sleep paralysis. Perhaps best-known today thanks to Rodney Ascher’s documentary The Nightmare it is when someone find themselves in the state between being awake and asleep. You’re awake but you can’t speak, move or react to anything around you. Even more terrifying, people who have experienced sleep paralysis have been known to experience hallucinations. The most common of which being intruders and feeling like someone, or something, is lying on your chest. Thankfully sleep paralysis typically only lasts less than a couple of minutes. But what if it didn’t? What if those creatures you thought you saw were real? That’s what we’re asked with the latest from Saban Films, Mara.

It’s a quiet night in Savannah, Georgia when tragedy suddenly strikes. Awoken by screams from her parent’s room young Sophie Wynsfield is terrified to discover her father, Matthew, brutally mangled. Sitting next to him is her traumatized mother, Helena. Assigned to the case is psychologist Kate Fuller (Olga Kurylenko) who thinks Helena murdered her husband when she blames a sleep demon named Mara. While Helena is committed Kate begins to second guess her decision when she begins to suffer from sleep paralysis herself and sees a monstrous figure from the corner for her eye.

Now this isn’t the first horror movie to mine the world of sleep disorders for terror. Recent movies like Dead Awake and Slumber dealt with sleep paralysis specifically while The Babadook and Nightmare Man have dealt with monsters that strike while you sleep. Not to mention the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street which dealt with both terrifying scenarios. Needless to say, there is a lot of competition in this particular subgenre. Thankfully Mara has a talented crew behind the scenes to help it stick out from the rest.

In his directorial debut Clive Tonge and writer Jonathan Frank are able to cleverly mix crime drama and the supernatural. And while there are elements similar to its peers (a clever mention of the case that inspired the Elm Street franchise comes to mind) it sticks out from the pack thanks to some really good character building. Due to its small core cast each character gets the chance to grow over the film’s brisk 99 minutes. Each of them feeling like fully formed characters with the most growth going to Kate Fuller, as portrayed by Olga Kurylenko.

Typically known as the femme fatale in movies such as Quantum of Solace and Hitman, Kurylenko gets to shows her more of her range as an actress as our horror heroine. Instead of the bad girl vibe she gives off in her other movies, Kurylenko is able to bring a vulnerability to the role we have never really seen from her before. At the same time as Dr. Fuller starts looking into Matthew’s past we watch as she slowly starts to lose her mind, a lack of sleep and paranoia taking its toll on her. Olga and the film’s makeup crew do a stellar job making it a gradual transformation.

The other standout performance comes from horror staple Javier Botet (REC, The Conjuring 2). Playing the demon Mara, the Spanish actor brings the kind of committed performance he is known for. His uniquely lanky body making normal tasks like standing and walking chilling with each movement. Unfortunately, Mara’s look isn’t up to par. Because while the glimpses we get of the costume look great, Mara’s design feels terribly generic. It is as if whoever designed Mara copy and pasted a generic evil hag and called it a day. Even worse, this kind of predictability that can be seen throughout the rest of the movie.

 

As mentioned earlier, Mara is fairly well written. Particularly for a smaller release like this. The problem is that you can pretty much predict everything that is going to happen. It’s like they had a checklist of everything they needed to happen in a supernatural movie and they made sure Mara hit them all. Tough but fair police chief? Check. A volatile, paranoid hermit that happens to be right? Check. A couple too many jump scares? Triple check. Needless to say, there won’t be any surprise twists for seasoned horror fans.

 

Despite its predictability I would still recommend Mara. Although it feels far too familiar Mara moves at a decent pace, it’s scares are well crafted and cinematographer Emil Topuzov is able to take scenes we have seen before and still provide some scary imagery. It may not be the most original horror movie to come out this year but for those looking for a fun, easy movie for a night in, Mara shouldn’t be slept on.

Rating 6/10
Links : IMDB

Mara is now in theaters and available on VOD/Digital HD

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2020 Year in Review

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2020 has certainly been an interesting year and whilst there were a lot of exciting new movies that we were all looking forward to seeing in 2020, that we’re going to have to wait a bit longer to see, there have still been plenty of really good films that we were able to watch in 2020 and I’m going to take a look at some of the best films of the year below.

I’ve done my best to try and watch as many films from 2020 but obviously I haven’t been able to watch every single film that was released this year so there will inevitably be some films that I’ll have missed off this list so I apologise if some of your favourite films of the year don’t make it.

Top 5 Action films of 2020

5. Extraction

The action-thriller film starring Chris Hemsworth that was released back in April was an exciting action-packed film that included a 12 minute long action scene that was done to look like one long shot that was truly spectacular which is why Extraction makes my top 5 action films of the year.

4. Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula

Peninsula is the sequel to 2016’s smash hit Korean zombie film Train to Busan and whilst the sequel was much more of an action film than a horror like the first, it had plenty of engaging and different action scenes. I had so much fun watching Peninsula although I do prefer Train to Busan. Full review here.

3. Wonder Woman 1984

After being delayed a few times, we’ve finally been able to watch the latest Wonder Woman film and it doesn’t disappoint. WW84 is full of vibrant, colourful action scenes that manages to top the first film and clocking in at 2 and a half hours, there’s plenty of time for action in Wonder Woman 1984. Full review here.

2. The Gentlemen

It feels like so long ago that Guy Ritchie’s gangster action-comedy film The Gentlemen came out but it was indeed 2020, albeit back in January. Whilst it feels like decades ago that we saw the film it was so much fun. It was full of laughs, swearing, action and it had a great cast too including Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant. Guy Ritchie’s best film to date.

1. Tenet

Tenet was the first big blockbuster back in cinemas after they re-opened this summer and whilst many have complained calling it a bit confusing and quite difficult to hear what the characters were saying a lot of the time, I thought Tenet was phenomenal with some amazing action sequences. Whether it be the booming opening opera house siege, the plane crashing into the building or the grand finale with people going backwards and forwards through time, Tenet was absolutely incredible to see on a big IMAX screen.

Top 5 Comedy films of 2020

5. Happiest Season

Happiest Season came as a really pleasant surprise to me. I didn’t expect to like it that much as I’m not a big fan of Christmas movies or rom-coms but this film was just so funny and full of so much heart that I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Full review here.

4. The Half of It

The Half of It is a really charming coming of age comedy-drama film that was released on Netflix in May about a teenage girl writing a love letter for a jock who starts to fall in love with his crush. It probably leans a bit more to drama than it does comedy, I just had to include it in my list because it was a really good film.

3. Palm Springs

Palm Springs revolves around an infinite time-loop situation a bit like Groundhog Day or Edge of Tomorrow or Happy Death Day or so many other films but Palm Springs feels so original and fresh and funny. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are both great as the two leads giving the film so much heart.

2. Borat Subsequent Moveifilm

It was only in September that we first started hearing rumours that a second Borat film had already been shot and then when the film was released on Amazon Prime in October it brought so many great laughs. The first film came out in 2006 and even though it’s been a while since we last saw him, Borat worked so well in 2020 and brought some much needed humour in the run up to the US presidential election.

1. The King of Staten Island

The King of Staten Island is the semi-autobiographical comedy-drama starring Pete Davidson and directed by Judd Apatow about a Davidson’s Scott Carlin who has to get his life together after his mother starts dating someone who, like his late father, is also a fireman. The King of Staten Island is a really touching and emotional drama film but it also has a lot of funny moments which is why it’s my number 1 comedy of the year and one of the best films of 2020.

Top 5 films you might not have seen

5. She Dies Tomorrow

She Dies Tomorrow was a really interesting film released in the summer by Neon and it followed Amy who thinks she’s going to die tomorrow and this thought becomes contagious and more and more people start thinking that they’re going to die the next day. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I thought it was really good

4. Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers was only released this December on Apple TV+ but it’s a really great film with some really incredible animation. It’s about a young girl who finds a mysterious tribe that turn into wolves each night. It’s a really entertaining, adventure film that’s just absolutely gorgeous to look at.

3. The Platform

The Platform/ El Hoyo is a Spanish sci-fi horror that was released on Netflix towards the start of the year. It’s entirely set in a vertical prison with many floors, each containing two people with one platform that moves down to each floor. The platform is initially filled with food at the top but as it moves down there’s less and less food on it for the people trapped below.

2. Another Round

Another Round/ Druk is a Danish film starring Mads Mikkelson (Casino Royale, Doctor Strange) and it’s about a group of school teachers that decide to test a hypothesis that human beings function better when they maintain a constant level of alcohol in their blood. Full review here.

1. Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman is one of those rare films that comes along and completely blows you away by how good it is. It’s also one of those films that it’s better to know as little as you can before you see it so I don’t want to say too much about it but if you do want to know more, you can find my full review here.

Top 5 films of 2020

Here are my top 5 films that were released in 2020:

5. The Trial of the Chicago 7

4. The King of Staten Island

3. Promising Young Woman

2. The Gentlemen

1. Tenet

Hopefully some of your favourites made my lists but if not, drop a comment below to let us know what some of your favourite films of 2020 were.

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Disney

Disney + | Every Upcoming Star Wars Project Announced

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Rogue Squadron

This will be the next Star Wars film to be released and will focus on the fighter pilots made famous in the Star Wars films. It will mark the first feature film in the franchise to be directed by a woman.

Ahsoka

Series centers on the adventures of Ahsoka Tano. A spin-off from ‘The Mandalorian’.

Rangers Of The New Republic

Star Wars: Rangers of the New Republic is a forthcoming live-action television series. It was announced on December 10, 2020 and it will be executive produced by Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau. The series will culminate in a crossover event with The Mandalorian and Star Wars: Ahsoka

The Acolyte

Star Wars: The Acolyte is a Star Wars television series currently being developed by Leslye Headland for Disney+. Headland will write, executive produce, and serve as the series’ showrunner. The show will focus on the emergence of dark side powers in the final days of the High Republic Era.

Lando

Star Wars: Lando is an upcoming event series. The story will be developed by Justin Simien. It was announced on December 10, 2020and will air on Disney+

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Plot undisclosed. Stand-alone spinoff feature from the Star Wars franchise centering on Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Andor

Prequel series to Star Wars’ ‘Rogue One’, following the adventures of Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion.

The Bad Batch

Rex, Cody, and Clone Force 99 (an unorthodox, elite squad also known as the Bad Batch), look to recover the Republic’s strategy algorithm from Admiral Trench, but a haunting truth awaits.

The Mandalorian Season 3

A lone gunfighter makes his way through the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.

Taika Waititi’s Star Wars Movie

A brand-new Star Wars feature with acclaimed filmmaker is in development. Get ready for an unforgettable ride!

A Droid Story

A Droid Story is an animated adventure series featuring R2D2 and C3PO set to be produced by Lucasfilm Animation and ILM. “As we continue to develop new stories, the intersection of animation of visual effects, offers new opportunities for us to explore,” Kennedy said (via Deadline). “This epic journey will introduce is to new hero guided by our most iconic duo… on a secret mission known only to them. What could possibly go wrong?”

Visions

Star Wars: Visions, an Original Series of animated short films, celebrates the galaxy through the lens of the world’s best Japanese anime creators. Coming in 2021 to

 

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Action

Free Guy | Official Trailer 2

Free Guy is an action-comedy about a bank teller who discovers he is a background character in an open world video game called Free City that will soon go offline.

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Genre:

Action, Adventure, Comedy

Release Date:

July 3, 2020

Director:

Shawn Levy

Cast:

Ryan Reynolds, Joe Keery, Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, Channing Tatum, Lil Rel Howery

Plot Summary:

Free Guy is an action-comedy about a bank teller who discovers he is a background character in an open world video game called Free City that will soon go offline.

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