For those whose appetite for the
brutal "Saw" movies is still ravenous, "Jigsaw" is good
news. Yes, John Kramer, alias Jigsaw, the man bent on torturing
and killing people of whom he has been judge and jury in
assessing their sins, may be dead, but he is living on in the
new generation of demented souls carrying out his warped
Five unlucky people find themselves in
desperate situations that the voice of Kramer, delivered
via PA systems or cassette tapes , calls "a game." Kramer's
rules allow for survival but at a terrific, painful and bloody
cost beyond just confessing wrongdoings. Tobin Bell, who was
propelled into the horror hall of fame with this portrayal of a
man whose genius is severely misguided, makes a return
appearance, but we won't reveal why and how he is here.
There is a new roll call of people here
that includes a police detective, Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie)
with a dirty past; a forensics expert, Logan Nelson (Matt
Passmore), who is an Iraqi war veteran and widow with a young
daughter and who is scarred physically and emotionally; another
police detective, Keith Hunt (Cle Bennett), trying to figure out
what is going on; and a forensics assistant to Nelson, Eleanor
Bonneville (Hannah Emily Anderson), who creepily is too much of
an aficionado of Kramer's "work."
There are, of course, the victims, who
tend to blend in with the various others who have seen the nasty
end of things at the hands of Kramer and others throughout the
Of course, the biggest draws are the
ways Kramer, et al, have devised to slice and dice these
victims. Fans of the this franchise say the methods employed in
"Jigsaw" do not measure up to those seen in the seven other
films, but they are nasty enough. Plus, "Jigsaw" has all the
markings of a reboot. Kramer may be gone but his legacy appears
to be alive and well.
"JIGSAW" Official Trailer:
"ONLY THE BRAVE"
This is yet another story of heroism
and tragedy based upon true events. The Granite Mountain
Hotshots, based in Prescott, Arizona, was a group of elite
firefighters in which 19 of the men perished in the Yarnell Hill
fire north of Phoenix in 2013.
Josh Brolin is tough and dedicated as
Eric "Supe" Marsh, the leader of the Granite Mountain group. A
bit like a drill sergeant, Marsh molds his group of men from
secondary firefighters into a certified unit, the kind of
firefighters often dispatched to other states to battle huge
blazes. With the support of Fire Marshal Duane Steinbrink (Jeff
Bridges, craggly and oddly jovial as usual), Marsh and his men
earn the necessary certification.
The movie focuses primarily on Marsh and
his wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), as well as Brendan "Donut"
McDonough (Miles Teller), a young screw-up and drifter who, when
his girlfriend Natalie (Natalie Hall) has a baby girl, becomes
motivated to try out for the Granite Mountain firefighters.
The script by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren
Singer, based upon the GQ article "No Exit" by Sean Flynn,
allows time to present some characterizations. Particularly
moving is the relationship between Eric and Amanda, two people
who met via a drug rehab support group and who have carved out a
loving marriage, with a few bumps, as they direct their energies
toward his firefighting and her horse care and training. In what
initially appears to be just a brief, secondary role, Connelly
gets enough screen time to build Amanda into a woman who is
supportive yet very aware of her own passions in life beyond her
love for Eric.
The script also touches upon the
passions these men -- among the group are characters played by
Taylor Kitsch and James Badge Dale. These guys love to kid
around like men do, but you can tell they are family, brothers
who watch each other's backs.
Director of photography Claudio Miranda,
working with director Joseph Kosinski ("Oblivion"), has put on
film some stunning footage of raging wildfires, capturing the
very real danger these disasters present.
"Only the Brave" is a tear-jerker but
"ONLY THE BRAVE" Official Trailer:
"HAPPY DEATH DAY"
This is a fun little horror movie
that draws from the premise of "Groundhog Day," the Bill Murray
movie of 1993 in which a man keeps reliving the same day.
The twist in
"Happy Death Day" is that the main character, a college student,
Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), keeps reliving a day -- her
birthday, as it turns out -- in which she is murdered. She wakes
up each morning in the dorm room of a fellow student Carter
Davis (Israel Broussard), who seems like a gentleman who did not
take advantage of Tree when she was passed out.
by Scott Lodbell is exceptional at unraveling the mystery as
Tree each day builds upon what she has learned the previous of
this day to find out who this masked person is that murders her.
way, Tree finds herself in self-reflection. As the movie begins,
she is not a very nice person -- someone who stands up her own
father for a birthday lunch for her. She treats the closest
people around her with disrespect as she remains focused on
The fun in
this movie is going along on the ride with Tree, but without
having to die each day, picking up clues here and there as she
closes in on discovering who is killing her. And there are some
twists along the way.
Landon, son of Michael Landon, keeps things moving at a good
place and gets a winning performance from Rothe, as well as
And at the
end there is a clever nod to Murray's movie.
"HAPPY DEATH DAY" Official Trailer:
"THE SANDMAN" (Broadcast on SyFy in October but
may show up again there and other platforms)
Remember those monsters you read
about in scary stories or saw in movies? For all your fears,
there was the rational voice that reminded you: they aren’t
real. Well, for young Madison in “The Sandman,” the monster that
frightens her the most — coming from a story read to her when
she was even younger — can become very real and deadly.
“The Sandman” is a first-rate thriller
written and directed by Peter Sullivan, a veteran of many
television movies. He’s done his share of Christmas-themed
movies, so “The Sandman” is a departure for him. Reportedly he
has a passion for horror movies, and this movie proves he is a
keen observer of what makes scary movies truly unsettling.
The aforementioned Madison (Shae Smolik)
is an 8-year-old girl who, as the movie begins, is traveling by
car with her father, Colton (Jason-Shane Scott), and they appear
to be on the lam. But soon it is revealed they are trying to
stay a step ahead of something more horrifying and deadly. Soon
Madison is orphaned and in a psychiatric ward, victimized by
horrendous nightmares and surrounded by facility staff members
skeptical of her claims that The Sandman is real and very
lethal, energized by Madison herself whenever she gets scared.
So the mix of a child being locked up and mourning her father
presents the real potential for slaughter.
Madison’s only relative is her aunt
Claire (Haylie Duff), a struggling artist with zero experience
in parenting. Nevertheless, Claire is willing to take care of
Madison while she butts heads with Dr. Cushing (Richard
Gleason), who believes the girl must remain institutionalized,
and Abigail Farmer (Lyn Alicia Henderson), a social worker not
convinced Claire is capable of providing Madison with a stable
home, especially with Claire’s “sometimes” boyfriend Wyatt
(Shaun Sipos) hanging around. On top of this, Claire has been
told by police that Colton was suspected of being a serial
Like all the other adults, Claire and
Wyatt try to convince Madison that The Sandman is not real, but
soon enough they witness, sometimes graphically, that the girl
is not just imagining things. Meanwhile, lurking on the
periphery is Valentine (Tobin Bell, old Jigsaw himself from
“Saw”), attached to some shadowy organization that sees some
possible sinister potential in harnessing whatever powers
The relationship between Madison and The
Sandman (Mick Ignis) is ambiguous. While The Sandman seems to be
protecting Madison, he also seems intent on destroying her.
Seeking clues as to what was going on
with Colton and Madison, Claire comes across a book in Colton’s
car written by Dr. Amanda Elliott (Amanda Wyss, Tina from “A
Nightmare on Elm Street”), a hypnotherapist. Claire deduces that
Colton was intent on taking Madison to Dr. Elliott in hopes she
could purge this monster from the girl.
It takes a while and a lot of peril
before Claire can get Madison to Dr. Elliott. It is under the
guidance of Dr. Elliott that Madison is hypnotized in an effort
to exorcise The Sandman.
Bell and Wyss provide stellar support in
“The Sandman” in what is a showcase for Smolik and Duff. Young
Smolik excels in the role of Madison, mostly a sweet and
innocent girl but one who can assume the deadly forces that have
been seen before by Sissy Spacek in “Carrie” and Drew Barrymore
in “Firestarter.” Duff adds depth to her portrayal of Claire,
suddenly thrown into a situation that goes beyond just adjusting
her lifestyle to assume custody of a young niece. Ultimately,
this is a story of two people whose bond evolves from being
strangers to one fortified by love and a determination to
SANDMAN" Official Trailer:
Interview: Amanda Wyss is grateful and feels blessed as she
Amanda Wyss was in her early 20s and had
worked mostly in television productions when she landed the role
of Tiny Gray in Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Her
brutal and bloody death at the hands (claws) of Freddy Krueger
has become an iconic moment in the history of horror movies, and
Wyss has gone on to a busy career in both television and movies.
Although her role as Dr. Amanda Elliott
in “The Sandman” entails only one scene, it is a pivotal one and
Wyss was pleased to get the part. She admitted that portraying
Dr. Elliott did present a challenge.
“It was a tricky role,” she said of the
part and its brevity of screen time. “I did not want it to just
be a cameo.”
Wyss said she enjoyed researching for
the role, adding that a friend who is a hypnotherapist took her
through a session. Indeed, Wyss conveys a doctor who knows what
needs to be done. She has to be forceful with Madison when the
girl is under hypnosis. With directives that prelude with “this
is important,” Wyss’ Dr. Elliott is compassionate but adamant
that the girl do what she is told.
The fact that Stan Lee, the Marvel
comics stalwart, served as a producer for “The Sandman” was a
big plus for Wyss. In addition, she was eager to work with
writer-producer-director Peter Sullivan. Noting that Sullivan’s
filmography includes several Christmas-oriented TV movies, Wyss
confessed, “My guilty pleasure is Hallmark Christmas movies. I
love them. I LOVE them. It is my dork element. It was like
Christmas working with Peter.”
The actress, who recently turned in a
bravura performance as a middle-aged woman living an isolated
and repressed life with a verbally abusive father in “The ID,”
also recently made a cameo appearance with David Naughton in
“The Hatred” about four college women who spend a getaway
weekend in a house that has a malevolent past and thus is a
hotbed of paranormal activity.
Wyss says that horror movies are
“intrinsically sad,” which she believes is a key element in why
so many of them develop loyal followings. She says that another
vital aspect of scary movies — an underlying theme of the
strength of family — can trigger an emotional tie between the
movies and their viewers. Ultimately, she adds, “The Sandman”
should connect with viewers because it is about family as Claire
and Madison grow to love each other amid the dire situations.
She praised the work of Duff and Smolik
and how they formulated performances that made their
relationship so believable.
”‘The Sandman’ is about family,” Wyss
said, “and it delivers a one-two punch in the gut.”
Wyss says she is grateful for all the
fans who embraced her as the doomed Tina and have “come along
with me, rooting for me all these years.”
Those fans will remain content, as Wyss
is in the midst of a busy schedule. She has roles in these films
that have wrapped up shooting: “Assassin’s Fury,” “The Watcher
of Park Avenue” (a short), “Drifting” (another short), “Catch A
Falling Star,” “Big Legend” and “The Capture.”
“Big Legend” is about Big Foot, and
Wyss, who plays a skeptic in the movie, in real life is a fan of
the Big Foot mysteries.
Currently, Wyss is filming two movies.
In “The Orchard” she plays Bernice Delaney, who is married to
Thomas Delaney, played by Jay Mohr. Also in the cast are Tom
Sizemore and Henry Rollins. Wyss says when you watch “The
Orchard,” you “will lose your mind.”
Also in filming now is “Triggered,”
which Wyss describes as a horror comedy. Later she will be on
set for “Contention,” a horror western in which she plays a
madame in a brothel.
In a career that has been going since
the early 1980s, Wyss remains enthusiastic. This is evident too
in her willingness to make appearances at conventions like Texas
Frightmare Weekend and Southern California’s semi-annual
Monsterpalooza, as well as doing signings as part of promotions
“I am so lucky,” Wyss concludes.