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Review: Mama

Jan. 16, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: After his company goes belly-up during the 2008 recession, a father- in a moment of panic, kills his wife and takes his two daughters to a secluded cabin to murder them. Theyre saved by a terrifying specter- which they dub Mama. Four years later, their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) manages to find the girls, Victoria and Lily- who, having been left with Mama for four years, are almost feral. Lucas and his girlfriend- Annabel (Jessica Chastain) take them in, but as they start to bond with the kids, the murderous Mama becomes jealous.

REVIEW: MAMA, courtesy of executive producer Guillermo del Toro, is based on a Spanish short by director Andres Muschietti, who makes this his big-screen feature-length debut. This continues del Toro effort to bring Spanish-style horror, like his own (amazing) PANS LABYRINTH or THE DEVILS BACKBONE to the American mainstream. Like his last effort in this capacity, DONT BE AFRAID OF THE DARK- the results are mixed, although at times, MAMA works brilliantly.

The prelude to the film is superb, with Coster-Waldau (of GAME OF THRONES) playing twin brothers- one of whom is the father that flips out after his life-savings go up in flames. He plays the mounting desperation- and gradual realization of the predicament hes dragged himself into brilliantly. The introduction of Mama, a not altogether unsympathetic creature, is similarly effective. From here, the film continues to move at an intriguingly understated pace- establishing an involving storyline, populated with refreshingly three-dimensional characters.

As the compassionate Uncle, Coster-Waldau is miles away from the psycho he plays on GAME OF THRONES, and makes for a likable father-figure. Jessica Chastain- who, like Katie Holmes in DONT BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, plays another reluctant mother, here playing a Goth guitarist (with a full-length sleeve tattoo)- whos not even slightly enthused at the prospect of adopting two possibly deranged children. Of course, Chastain comes around, and her evolution into a strong-willed, loving mother figure isnt rushed, and made convincing by Chastains nuanced performance (theres no doubt shes a superstar in the making). As a whole, Waldau, Chastain- and the two kids, played by young thesps Megan Charpantier and Isabelle Nlisse make for a family youll no doubt find yourself rooting for- and this is the films strongest aspect.

For me- the biggest part of MAMA that doesnt really work is the horror aspect, which- I suppose, is the most important thing in a genre film, right? While the story is good, and MAMAs an intriguing figure, I cant say I was very scared or even slightly put on edge by what I was watching on-screen, which is a shame. The only part of the film that really gave me chills was a spooky dream sequence where Chastain sees Mamas origins- which is visually striking and appropriately haunting.

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Still- too many of the wanna-be scary sequences are ho-hum, and the supporting cast is riddled with characters whose demise is so telegraphed it becomes ludicrous. And a twist, where one of the characters tries to solve the mystery of Mama by retrieving an item from her presumed past is far too similar to THE RING, and feels awfully conventional. This wouldnt really be a problem if MAMA at least had a few good scares, but I cant say I was ever anywhere near the edge of my seat.

For me, MAMA is a film that teeters on the brink of being good or bad, but the top-notch acting, stylish visuals, and surprisingly unconventional ending make this worth seeing. Still, the fact remains that its not particularly scary- although it is spooky at times, which I guess is good enough for PG-13 horror these days. In the end, its worth checking out.

Source: JoBlo.com

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12:34AM on 01/16/2013
so it's not as bad as it looks that's good news
so it's not as bad as it looks that's good news
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1:32AM on 01/16/2013
I think you are being WAY too kind to this movie. it was pretty wretched example of a movie that's all jump scares and zero interesting characters. Chastain is wasted.

My review of MAMA here: [link]
I think you are being WAY too kind to this movie. it was pretty wretched example of a movie that's all jump scares and zero interesting characters. Chastain is wasted.

My review of MAMA here: [link]
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8:52AM on 01/16/2013
I've never understood why people say something is worth checking out when they rate it a generally mediocre 6/10. I'm not gonna spend 11 bucks on something that borders on being good, but doesn't quite get there. I'll probably wait for the Redbox.
I've never understood why people say something is worth checking out when they rate it a generally mediocre 6/10. I'm not gonna spend 11 bucks on something that borders on being good, but doesn't quite get there. I'll probably wait for the Redbox.
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4:18PM on 01/17/2013
Well, I get what you're saying about how you differentiate between an 8 and 9, and I agree that a 7 basically translates to "good." Personally, I don't think it's hard for a film to accomplish a 7. It just has to fulfill the basic requirements of a solid film, (good characters, good plot, etc). For example, just look at Bumbray's reviews. He's usually pretty on target with his ratings, and recently he gave Arnold's The Last Stand a 7. It's obvious from the trailers and the reviews currently
Well, I get what you're saying about how you differentiate between an 8 and 9, and I agree that a 7 basically translates to "good." Personally, I don't think it's hard for a film to accomplish a 7. It just has to fulfill the basic requirements of a solid film, (good characters, good plot, etc). For example, just look at Bumbray's reviews. He's usually pretty on target with his ratings, and recently he gave Arnold's The Last Stand a 7. It's obvious from the trailers and the reviews currently posted on RT that the film is nothing special, but it manages to entertain on a sufficient enough level. See, even a generic action vehicle like The Last Stand can earn that rating.

But yeah, I do agree with you that it's best to just read the whole review to get a proper feel for the film and the reviewer's mindset.
2:01PM on 01/17/2013
I'm not stretching no lol, when I see a film I can make a clear distinction of what a 5 out of 10 film is, or a 6/10 or a 7/10 film or an 8/10 or a 9/10 etc.

The difference between an 8 and a 9 for example, in my mind of course, is that step from 'great' to something more ('fantastic'). To me as the scores go up it becomes increasingly difficult to reach the next level. It's easier for a movie to get a 6, harder for it to step up to a 7, even harder to step up to an 8 and very hard to get to
I'm not stretching no lol, when I see a film I can make a clear distinction of what a 5 out of 10 film is, or a 6/10 or a 7/10 film or an 8/10 or a 9/10 etc.

The difference between an 8 and a 9 for example, in my mind of course, is that step from 'great' to something more ('fantastic'). To me as the scores go up it becomes increasingly difficult to reach the next level. It's easier for a movie to get a 6, harder for it to step up to a 7, even harder to step up to an 8 and very hard to get to a 9 and of course very, very rare for a movie to get a 10/10 (especially on a first viewing). Of course numbers are just numbers, and while they are easy to look at reviews are more about the words than the generalizing numbers. That's where the true opinion can be found I believe, and in the words is where the distinction between a 7 and an 8 can be found, the reasons why it was an 8 rather than a 7 or vice versa (what held it back, what propelled it). Many films are good, but it takes something special in them to make them great in my mind. It isn't something that can just be explained in general terms I don't believe, what defines an 8 or a 7, other than putting a word like 'great' or 'good to it, it's a specific thing movie by movie and is explained by the review for the movie. Again though, I can make a clear and easy distinction about what the difference between an 8/10 (great) movie and a 9/10 (fantastic) movie is in my mind. You can assign whatever word you want to the number (or but a letter to the number: A, B, C etc.) it doesn't matter -- it's a scale and, to me, each number holds weight, is distinct and each number matters. The words in the review matter more than anything yes, but I'm pretty strict with how I use the rating scale with movies and again with that can make a distinction between a 1 and a 2, or a 4 and a 5, or a 8 and a 9, or a 9 and a 10. The word 'good' is synonymous with with a 7 to me, etc. though obviously the flaw with scales is that everyone views the numbers, and scores them, differently.
6:19PM on 01/16/2013
yeah, something gets 5 stars because it was almost in the green, (passing) but it failed as a film, (that's my take anyway). As the numbers get lower they indicate how much they missed the mark, so obviously a 1 or 2 really falls really short. Also, it feels as if you're just reaching with that explanation about 8 being great and 9 being fantastic. What exactly is the difference between the two? At that point you have no real way of indicating what each rating means, you're just assigning
yeah, something gets 5 stars because it was almost in the green, (passing) but it failed as a film, (that's my take anyway). As the numbers get lower they indicate how much they missed the mark, so obviously a 1 or 2 really falls really short. Also, it feels as if you're just reaching with that explanation about 8 being great and 9 being fantastic. What exactly is the difference between the two? At that point you have no real way of indicating what each rating means, you're just assigning synonyms or words that are close in meaning to the top numbers. It's more distinct if you go by the old school "elementary school" way of rating a film.
5:59PM on 01/16/2013
well I guess everyone looks at scores differently. To me it is pretty simple. 4 is below average, 5 -- being the middle -- is average, 6 is above average and then it goes up from there. 7 would be good, 8 would be great, 9 would be fantastic and 10 would be amazing -- that kind of thing.

To me 5 is average, it's decent. There are plenty of movies that I would give a 5 out of 10 to that are 'decent' movies, they aren't bad and they aren't good but they are worth a watch if nothing else is
well I guess everyone looks at scores differently. To me it is pretty simple. 4 is below average, 5 -- being the middle -- is average, 6 is above average and then it goes up from there. 7 would be good, 8 would be great, 9 would be fantastic and 10 would be amazing -- that kind of thing.

To me 5 is average, it's decent. There are plenty of movies that I would give a 5 out of 10 to that are 'decent' movies, they aren't bad and they aren't good but they are worth a watch if nothing else is on, they have there moments... it got 5 stars for a reason. To me every star counts. If a movie is truly bad and holds little to no entertaiment value, well then it would be a 1 out of 10, the lowest score. a 6/10 movie or a 5/10 movie, at least in my mind, is far from a bad movie.

To each their own though.
5:51PM on 01/16/2013
i don't consider 6 to be above average. I look at the numbers much like the way you're graded out of 100 percent. Whether you're talking about 6 out of 10 or 60 out of 100, it's the same thing. Therefore, according to those standards, 6 is barely passing, 7 is average, 8 is above average, 9 is excellent, and 10 is perfect. 5 and under is a failure.
i don't consider 6 to be above average. I look at the numbers much like the way you're graded out of 100 percent. Whether you're talking about 6 out of 10 or 60 out of 100, it's the same thing. Therefore, according to those standards, 6 is barely passing, 7 is average, 8 is above average, 9 is excellent, and 10 is perfect. 5 and under is a failure.
3:40PM on 01/16/2013
6 is above average. Typically something that is above average would be considered worth watching. However, if something needs to get higher than that for you to want to check it out, then by all means, don't check it out.
6 is above average. Typically something that is above average would be considered worth watching. However, if something needs to get higher than that for you to want to check it out, then by all means, don't check it out.
10:56AM on 01/16/2013
I'll check it out for my self. I recall the Hobbit review getting a mediocre rating, and it turned out to be one of my favorite movies.
I'll check it out for my self. I recall the Hobbit review getting a mediocre rating, and it turned out to be one of my favorite movies.
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2:50PM on 01/16/2013

I want to see this more than any of these shit remakes coming out

Screw the evil dead remake, TCM3D was shit too. While I do doubt this will be better than Sinister (was a great genre flick) I can assume it will be original and deliver on atmosphere. Del Toro was never focused on horror as much as he was atmosphere in films like pans labyrinth. This movie will have great visuals and characters that are not retarded teenagers that you are supposed to hate.
Screw the evil dead remake, TCM3D was shit too. While I do doubt this will be better than Sinister (was a great genre flick) I can assume it will be original and deliver on atmosphere. Del Toro was never focused on horror as much as he was atmosphere in films like pans labyrinth. This movie will have great visuals and characters that are not retarded teenagers that you are supposed to hate.
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6:24PM on 01/16/2013

It looks bad

It looks terrible.
It looks terrible.
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