MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Movie Review – The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) — November 30, 2014

Movie Review – The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Movie Review – The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)


Movie Synopsis:

This film had elements of a psychological thriller, a courtroom drama, and a horror film about demonic possession.  Emily Rose was a teenager who died a gruesome death, according to the establishment as a result of self inflicted injuries and malnutrition.  However, Emily’s family and priest believes she died at the hands of demons who had taken control of her body.  The film follows a prosecution who is trying to hold the priest accountable for what happened to Emily, while the agnostic lawyer defending the priest slowly begins to understand just what she has gotten herself involved in, as she learns more and gathers evidence following the priest’s account of what happened.

Movie Review:

This film was a very interesting multi-genre story, with elements of a slow burning thriller/drama, while at the same time having elements and scenes spread throughout that were much more intense and more in the horror genre.  The plot was a very intense storyline, loosely based on a true story, which added mystery and excitement for the audience as they watched the frightening events play out.  One never knew when the next intense and frightening scene was to occur, which gave the film a feeling of anticipation that was effective.  Although in parts the storyline did move a little bit slowly, it also allowed the audience to think and reflect on what was really going on.  Acting was very strong, with Laura Linney, Colm Feore, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, and Jennifer Carpenter all playing strong roles.  A strong final sequence in the film provided real action and intensity after the mainly slow burning throughout.  Although the visual effects were not anything to win awards, what was there particularly in the end provided fear and fright.  At the conclusion of the film, not all of the loose ends are neatly tied up, and given this film’s topic area, it leaves the viewer pondering, which is the sign the film was effective.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) —

Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)


Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Movie Synopsis:

Katniss Everdeen has been able to survive the second Hunger Games she has entered, and has become a symbol for the Rebellion, who is fighting vigourously against President Snow and the Capitol from the secret District 13.  But Katniss is struggling with the capture of  Peeta Melark and her other allies from the last Hunger Games, and she is also struggling with the destruction of her home District 12.  Thankfully her family is with her in District 13, where she becomes the “mockingjay” of the Rebellion, and begins to work with them to motivate and gather allies to the rebellion cause from across all the Districts.  But President Snow has other ideas, and uses violence, killings, and even Peeta against the Rebellion and against Katniss.  All out war looks more than certain.

Movie Review:

This is the first of two movies based on the third and final novel of the trilogy.  As with the previous films in the series, this one does not disappoint in the area of visual effects.  Many action sequences in this film are exciting and are executed effectively, adding to the plot which is getting more intense.  A nice bonus for this outing is that the story expands beyond just a “Hunger Games” setting and moves into the more political arena of rebellion versus capitol.  The back and forth of the two leaders, and the involvement of Katniss and Peeta on both sides, makes for a stronger plot versus previous films.  In addition, the acting continues to get stronger as the series moves along, in large part because more adults are taking on larger roles in the series, other than the two main protagonists of Katniss and Peeta.  One downside which permeates the series is the character of Katniss, who continues to not necessarily convince in her role as a strong leader.  She is more a figurehead for the rebellion, given she doesn’t necessarily see the big picture, which perhaps demonstrates complex character and is probably fair for a younger person who has been through a lot.  However, the scenes with Katniss are sometimes confusing, and the writers don’t do a good job of perhaps demonstrating that this is their goal.  Instead, she is strong in one scene, crying (again) in another scene.  The result is disjointed writing and a somewhat confusing character in some scenes here.  The closing is definitely intense, and will of course leave audiences excited for the second film.  The breaking into two films is clearly done for increased profits, which is unfortunate, but that’s a cynical side point!

Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars

Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) —

Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

catching fire

Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Movie Synopsis:

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Melark have successfully gotten out of the Hunger Games, and are trying to return to a sense of normalcy in their home in District 12.  However, when Katniss starts to go “off script” and say things that go against the Capitol, and when President Snow sees many people across districts following her rebellious thoughts, he tries to limit the damage she may cause by throwing Katniss and Peeta back into a special 75th Anniversary Hunger Games.  Katniss and Peeta must find a way to survive their most dangerous Games ever, looking for the allies and the enemies amongst them.

Movie Review:

The second movie of this series was definitely an intense addition to the series, and a stronger performance than the first film in the series.  The acting is stronger, particularly from the two main characters who have come into their own and are more comfortable performing in their characters.  The visual effects are, as usual, very strong. Whether it is the footage in District 12 in Katniss’ home and surrounding desolate village, or the impressive looking Capitol, or the water and jungle of the Hunger Games, the action sequences are well shot and exciting.  In addition, many of the minor characters in the storyline are multi layered and very fascinating to watch, and it is truly unpredictable what will happen in terms of who will be friends versus foes.  The downside to the movie is that the main character of Katniss did seem to resort to a lot of sadness and crying for multiple scenes. Granted, she is going through a lot, and is trying to survive in the Hunger Games with Peeta for a second time, while also trying to figure out who she truly loves in the love triangle portion of the story, Peeta or Gale.  However, as the movie goes on, the crying scenes of Katniss do pile on and become a little bit much, to the point of repetitive and losing their true impact to the storyline.  Overall, this movie did have a mixture of positives and negatives, and despite the hype surrounding it, is certainly not the best of the many teen/aadult fantasy movies out there right now.

Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars

Movie Review – Interstellar (2014) — November 17, 2014

Movie Review – Interstellar (2014)

Movie Review – Interstellar (2014)


Movie Synopsis:

Sometime in the near future, humanity is seeing the earth around them dying as a planet.  Crops are not able to grow in the harsh climate, wind storms are destroying the land and creating food shortages and health problems for the human race, and there is not much hope for the future.  Cooper, former astronaut turned farmer, is trying to eek out an existence with his daughter, son, and father, when he is given an opportunity to save the human race by piloting a small group of explorers into space on a secret mission to try and find a new planet for the human race.  A black hole exists beyond Saturn which will take them to another galaxy where there is possibility of another home.  But the mission is dangerous and he must leave his family behind to save the wider species.

Movie Review:

This film was definitely envisioned to be an epic by director and writer Christopher Nolan.  Although it definitely had its moments of grandeur, and had some glorious overall themes and visual effects, there were a couple of key components where the film fell short.  Interstellar was fascinating but certainly didn’t meet the high bar set by space themed movie Gravity from last year.  The visual effects, particularly the scenes in space, were fantastic.  Shots of the black hole, the new planets, and Saturn were magnificent.  There were also some wonderful overall themes discussed, which touched on humanity, morality, and the future.  Furthermore, the character development between the principal characters was well thought out, and some great acting performances by a stellar cast was critical to this film’s enjoyment.  What detracted from the film however was the fact that in an attempt to be grand and epic, the director and producers decided that length = epic.  The question I had at times during the film were “where have all the editors gone?”  There were many scenes that could have been reduced or even cut for time.  Lots of scenes filled with scientific jargon could have been reduced without impact on 99% of the audience, and some scenes didn’t seem to really advance the plot or characters.  The feel of the movie was quite slow at times, which reminded the viewer of Contact, a similar space-themed movie from the 1990s which was also billed as epic but fell short due to similar issues.  Although I enjoyed the film in several respects, this issue was the main reason for a less than stellar ranking.

Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars

Book Review – The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith — November 16, 2014

Book Review – The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith

Book Review – The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith



Book: The Silkworm

Author: Robert Galbraith

Genre: Mystery

Year of Release: 2014

Read 456-page hardcover edition in October 2014.

Book Description:

Detective Cormoran Strike has seen his private investigation business take off, thanks to the Lula Landry case and the unwanted fame it brought him.  He has mostly been dealing with cases involving cheating husbands, which are helping him get caught up on the bills, but are not necessarily the most challenging situations he’s had to deal with in his army and investigatory career.  However, when author Owen Quine goes missing, after publishing a fictional novel that insults a wide variety of people in his life, Mrs Quine comes to Detective Strike desperate for him to find Owen.  However, when Owen turns up dead under grisly circumstances, Detective Strike and his trusted assistant Robin must work to deduce who murdered him, with a plethora of suspects, one of which is a deadly killer.

Book Review:

This second Cormoran Strike novel was a great furtherance of the series.  The novel, written by J.K. Rowling under the Galbraith pseudonym, was a fantastic mystery, having a healthy dose of intrigue, drama, action, a diverse cast of suspects, and strong character development of the principal characters.  The characters of Strike and Robin were further developed in this novel, and it was great to learn more about them and see a greater dynamic between them, as their relationship continues to play out in the storyline.  Robin’s relationship with fiancee Matthew also makes for additional intrigue, and these three characters will surely be further intertwined and developed in the next novel of the series, which will be fascinating to read!  On the plot of this novel, the death of Owen Quine was well written by Galbraith, with a very messy murder scene indeed that was horror-like in its description.  The cast of plenty who served as suspects were bizarre, diverse, and broad, creating many plausible suspects that kept us as the readers turning the pages.  These characters were suspects because they appeared in the Owen Quine manuscript, and it was at times hard to keep track of who was who and link them back to the manuscript we read about in the novel.  This detracted slightly from the story, but otherwise, this was a strong showing and an enjoyable and exciting read, and the reader is left looking forward to the next novel in the Strike series.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars