Tag Archives: Teresa Palmer

Afraid of the Dark?

‘Lights Out’ will give you the fright-night heebie jeebies

LIGHTS OUT

Lights Out
Starring Maria Bello, Teresa Palmer & Gabriel Bateman
Directed by David F. Samberg
PG-13

Are you afraid of the dark?

If you are, then here’s something to really give you some real fright-night heebie jeebies. In Lights Out, a family is menaced in a big, old “haunted house” by a beastly figure that shuns light and can only be glimpsed in the shadows of darkness.

Lights on, it disappears. Lights off, it attacks.

It’s name is Diana.

Expanding on his well-received three-minute short film of the same title, first-time feature director-writer David F. Samberg makes an impressive debut, proving you don’t need mega bucks to get maxi scares. Cinematographer Marc Spicer, who worked on Moulin Rouge, The Wolverine and The Shallows, makes the most of every creepy angle, tracking shot and dark blob in the background that might be nothing, or might be something else—something far more menacing, vengeful and deadly.

LIGHTS OUT

Teresa Palmer

Maria Bello plays Sophie, a mom with serious mental-issue baggage she’s been dragging around since childhood. Teresa Palmer is her grown daughter, Rebecca, who’s moved out, playfully fending off the advances of her amorous boyfriend, Brit (Alexander DiPersia). Her little brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), is still at home, where he’s losing sleep because he’s afraid to turn out the lights—after he’s seen the frightening, violent figure in the inky corners of his mother’s bedroom.

Billy Burke (who plays Mitch Morgan on TV’s Zoo) appears—briefly!—as Rebecca and Morgan’s stepdad.

All the pieces of the Lights Out puzzle begin to come together about midway through, when we learn more about the mysterious Diana. I give the movie high marks for story development and making us feel invested in its characters, a rarity in a lot of horror flicks. There’s virtually no blood, almost zero gore, and a fright machine that runs on well-timed gotchas, real-world surprises and supernatural shocks.

LIGHTS OUTSome experts think that humans carry an ancient, primal genetic code to be afraid of the dark, a holdover from when we were much more helpless and defenseless after the sun went down—and predators were on the prowl.

This movie certainly plays off that idea, and others, too—including madness, family and the fear of going insane. But one of its most clever ideas is the way its protagonists fight to keep the “lights on” in every way possible, as Diana fights to turn them off. Boyfriend Brit’s resourcefulness, in particular, had the audience literally cheering in the screening I attended.

These days, you can watch movies many ways: on your TV, on your laptop, on your tablet, even on your phone. But for full effect, see this one in the big, open expanse of a dark theater, surrounded by people you don’t know and by things you can’t see…with the lights out!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Ham, Corn or Cheese

‘The Choice’ is a sappy Southern buffet for the Nicholas Sparks faithful

The Choice

Starring Benjamin Walker & Teresa Palmer

Directed by Ross Katz

PG-13

Hokey, sappy and awash with clichés, The Choice nonetheless serves up exactly what audiences want when they strap on a Nicholas Sparks feedbag.

Movies from Sparks’ books (Message in a Bottle, Safe Haven, The Notebook, The Lucky One, Dear John) have featured big stars (Ryan Gosling, Richard Gere, Kevin Costner, Channing Tatum, Julianne Hough, Rachel McAdams) and grossed close to $900 million. Clearly, they’ve found their niche and their audience.

The 12th movie based on a novel by the prolific author, The Choice stars Benjamin Walker from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as Travis, a drawly, smooth-talking, Southern-gent ladies’ man. Travis can charm just about any female—except his spunky new next-door neighbor, Gabby (Teresa Palmer, star of Warm Bodies, I Am Number Four and Point Break).

Travis and his dad (British actor Tom Wilkinson) are the local veterinarians, and Gabby is a nurse at the hospital, where she’s dating a hunky physician (Tom Welling, Superman in TV’s Smallville). Everyone in The Choice is white-collar and gainfully employed, and neither people nor pets seem to worry about health care in its quaint, peaceful, picture-perfect coastal North Carolina town (a favorite Sparks setting).

Everyone thinks Travis and Gabby should be a couple, especially Travis’ sister (Maggie Grace). This line of thought gains considerable traction when Gabby’s boyfriend packs up his stethoscope and goes out of town on a business trip—how convenient! Travis takes Gabby out on his boat and takes off his shirt, and Gabby shows off her rockin’ bikini bod. They splash and flirt. Gabby invites Travis over for dinner, they talk about the moon and the stars and God, and before you can say, “Hold on to your croutons,” there’s salad on the floor and bump and grinding on top of the kitchen table.

Director Ross Katz, making his mainstream feature debut after working his way up the filmmaking ladder, certainly tries to make the most of everything he’s got. He gives his two leads, Walker and Palmer, plenty of gorgeous, golden-glow close-ups. He reminds us that that time is precious and fleeting by showing us—repeatedly—shots of the tide. There’s old-time religion, new-age mysticism, a box full of puppies, a hurricane, a beach party, a festive birthday celebration, a wrenching hospital vigil, an emotional cemetery visit and a soliloquy on the significance of a chair.

When Gabby and Travis first meet, his backyard cookout has disturbed her studying for nursing exams. So it begins and so it goes: He “bothers” her, she “bothers” him, they draw closer and closer, and eventually “bother” becomes an all-purpose romantic shorthand. “Baby, bother me!” Travis breathlessly implores as he cradles Gabby later in the movie.

It’s mushy and gushy and gooey, but hey, that’s Nicholas Sparks. And if you’ve seen the trailer for The Choice, you know “the choice” refers to something that comes to involve a major, do-or-die decision.

“The secret to life is all about decisions,” says Travis. “Every path you take leads to another choice.”

The Choice offers a choice, all right—do you prefer your Southern-style canned corn with extra ham, double cheese or a heaping helping of buttered schmaltz?

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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