• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

Orphan

TITLE: Orphan

YEAR: 2009

GENRE: Horror

Anybody who spends any time reading the reviews in this blog will come to the realization that I am not much of a fan of modern Hollywood horror films. Most of the big budget Hollywood offerings since 2000 have mostly been paint by number production that use cliché serial killers and things that go bump in the night, and replace genuinely good storylines and suspense with big explosions and cliché tales told a thousand times. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and Orphan is one of those deviations that are a welcome addition. Orphan is a well crafted and truly suspenseful horror offering that delivers some great twists and turns throughout the production.

Married couple Kate (played by Vera Farmiga) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard) experience a major strain in their marital bliss as a result of a stillborn birth of their third child and Kate’s struggles with the bottle. The Colemans decide that an addition to their family would be the medicine to fix their family, and end up adopting Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a nine-year-old Russian orphan. The other Coleman children Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and Max (Aryana Engineer) become intimidated by the new family entry, and Kate starts to believe that something is truly wrong with Esther when a local child ends up being severely injured on a playground and the main nun at the orphanage (CCH Pounder) Esther came from ends up murdered on the side of the road. Kate discovers that all is not what meets the eye with Esther, and that the truth is more terrifying than she could ever dream.

What works best for Orphan—and is pretty rare to find in a Hollywood horror film—is the suspense element as well as the creation of a suspenseful and at times scary atmosphere. Of course this all starts with the antagonist, and Fuhrman is excellent as one of the creepiest kids in any movie since Malachi in 1984’s Children Of The Corn. There are a couple scenes in the movie that are especially suspenseful and do a great job in building to a climax. One would not expect a playground in the middle of the day to be scary, but when Esther stalks a young girl through an idyllic recreational area during the winter it literally sends chills down the spine. In addition, several scenes throughout the family home especially when John discovers Esther’s black light reactive paintings are disturbing and very well done. Fuhrman is not the only quality actor in this film, as Farmiga gives an especially good performance as the conflicted mother. It was also a great casting decision to bring on Engineer as the five-year-old deaf daughter as she is hearing impaired in real life and was convincing as the handicapped, scared kid who did what she could to keep in the good graces of Esther. In addition, the twist ending is truly interesting and is much better than one could expect.

Orphan did create a major controversy upon its initial release as many adoption agencies encouraged its patrons and supporters to boycott the film including the creation of a Facebook page with over 4500 fans. Orphan was a modest financial success, making $78 million in its worldwide theatrical run and decent DVD sales. I can count on one hand and have fingers left over how many Hollywood horror films since 2000 are in my personal DVD collection, and Orphan would be one of those films. Orphan is a well done and finely crafted scarefest that will be remembered as one of the very best Hollywood horror offerings of the new millennium.

* * * * 1/2

–Mark

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