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Blu-ray Review: Jessica Chastain Stars in Effective ‘Mama’

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CHICAGO – “Mama” isn’t exactly an original piece (it borrows heavily from horror archetypes, particularly those that turned Asian horror into a trend) but it isn’t always the originality of the composition but how well it’s played that matters. “Mama” is, mostly, well-played. The atmosphere brought to it by director Andy Muschietti, the character depth provided by Jessica Chastain, the brilliant touch of producer Guillermo Del Toro — “Mama” deliveres. Mostly. Some decisions made in the CGI department are disappointing but there’s still a lot to like here. Definitely worth a rental.

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-ray rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

On the cusp of the 2008 economic crash, a man kidnaps his two daughters and attempts to kill them in a remote cabin before he’s destroyed by a supernatural force. The two girls survive with the apparition that they name Mama until they’re found by the man’s twin brother (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and brought in by their uncle and his girlfriend (Jessica Chastain). They don’t come back to society alone.

The small, atmospheric touches, like a brilliant scene involving forced perspective and tug-of-war, and the completely believable performance by Chastain elevate “Mama” above much of the competition. However, the final act depends on a lot of a screen time for the title character and she’s disappointingly realized as a CGI creation that will age poorly and simply isn’t that scary. A creaking door will always be scary. A special effect will never be. I do like “Mama,” especially in context of Del Toro’s obsession with the themes at play here — the film would fit in a twisted marathon with “The Devil’s Backbone,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and “The Orphanage” (although isn’t as good as any of those films) — but it falls just short of greatness.

The special features on the Blu-ray release are an interesting bunch, including a series of smartly deleted scenes and, most interesting, the original short film that drew Del Toro’s attention.

Mama was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 7, 2013
Mama was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 7, 2013
Photo credit: Universal

Synopsis:
Guillermo del Toro, the Academy Award-nominated writer of Pan’s Labyrinth, presents this supernatural thriller that tells the haunting tale of two little girls who disappeared into the woods the day that their parents were killed. When the young sisters are found alive in a decrepit cabin, their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones) and his girlfriend (Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty) take them in. As they try to introduce the children to a normal life, Annabel (Chastain) begins to wonder if the traumatized girls are the only guests they have welcomed into their home.

Special Features:
o Matriarchal Secrets: The Visual Effects Of Mama
o Deleted Scenes
o Original Short With Introduction By Guillermo Del Toro
o The Birth Of Mama
o Feature Commentary With Director/Co-Writer Andy Muschietti and Producer/Co-Writer Barbara Muschietti
o Digital Copy Included

“Mama” stars Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. It was directed by Andy Muschietti and released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 7, 2013.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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