Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, Diana Silvers
Release Date: September 3, 2019
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 5/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
Everybody’s welcome at Ma’s. But good luck getting home safe. Sue Ann (Oscar® winner Octavia Spencer) is a lonely woman who keeps to herself in a quiet Ohio town. When a local teenage girl asks Sue Ann to buy some booze for her group of friends, she decides to make some new friends of her own and offers her basement for the kids to party. They just have to follow a few simple house rules: Someone has to stay sober. Don’t curse. Never go upstairs. And call her “Ma.” As Ma’s hospitality curdles into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma’s place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on earth.
After moving back to her mother’s old hometown, a young girl and her new group friends find themselves with what appears to be a dream come true after a lonely, yet quite friendly older woman buys the group booze and even offers her basement as a safe drinking spot for the underage teens. Dubbed MA by the teens, the basement quickly becomes the best drinking spot in town, but when MA starts acting more erratically and her actions quickly turn unsettling and creepy, the teens start to become somewhat hesitant, realizing that there may be more to their newfound friend than they believed. Yet MA isn’t about to simply let them walk out of her lives without a fight.
Directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, The Girl on the Train) and written by Scotty Landes (TV’s Workaholics), Taylor does a highly competent job at the helm of ‘MA’ guiding along the tale with some gorgeous shots and clever choices. The film also benefits a great deal from a talented overall cast that includes Octavia Spencer (The Help), Juliette Lewis (Strange Days), Diana Silvers (Booksmart), Corey Fogelmanis (TV’s Girl Meets World), McKaley Miller (TV’s Hart of Dixie) and Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6) along with more, nearly all offering solid performances in each of their respective roles, especially Spencer who is fantastic as the antagonist for a change and without question the best part of the film.
‘MA’ is a quite well made film, benefitting from a solid cast and a perfectly unsettling premise not to mention a smooth, swift style filled with perfect camera angles, clever shots and other positive tidbits. But while so many elements of the film are to be praised, it also has its share of hiccups throughout. Those expecting a wild, gory ride like many relatively similar films will be somewhat disappointed by the jumbled story and the slow burn style, particularly considering the anticipation for a big, explosive breaking point is never rewarded, the film instead just kind of fizzling out after a while without things getting even close to the level of demented fun most will be expecting (in fact the majority of the wild and crazy moments are showcased in the trailer). The film is capably guided along by talented director Tate Taylor and also benefits tremendously from a powerful cast, not to mention a memorable and fairly eerie performance by Octavia Spencer like you’ve never quite seen her before, and those already intrigued by ‘MA’ will probably want to try and make a point of checking it out at some point in order to make up your their mind. The film does have a handful of issues and tends to move along a bit slower than expected while occasionally even becoming a bit silly, yet the capable direction and talented cast along with a generally intriguing concept definitely help to counteract it. It certainly isn’t a terrible movie by any means, but it’s not exactly a masterpiece either.
Overall, ‘MA’ is decent thriller with a chilling villain portrayed with a perfect uneasy charm by the immensely talented Octavia Spencer, accompanied by a well shot and competently constructed overall film. Unfortunately it also has trouble finding places for its characters to end up or advance and instead merely burns out after a somewhat lackluster finale. ‘MA’ is recommended whenever it’s convenient for those who are already looking forward to it but didn’t have the chance to catch it in theaters, although I would also encourage those that haven’t yet seen it to try and make a point of renting the film before a blind purchase of the Blu-ray. It has plenty going for it, but also finds itself struggling in other areas, yet those already quite excited for it will surely still want to give it a shot and form their own opinion.
The Blu-ray release of ‘MA’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.39:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks quite nice altogether and delivers a sharp, detailed and clean presentation from start to finish, with no notable issues or troubles to be uncovered along the way. It holds up remarkably well even during the notably dark sequences and fast moving moments, never causing anything occurring onscreen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a solid high definition video presentation that consistently holds up throughout and shouldn’t disappoint fans or first time viewers.
The Blu-ray release features a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This multichannel soundtrack offers a crisp, clean and often fairly aggressive audio presentation throughout. It frequently takes advantage of all five available channels in order to send music, along with bits of crowd chatter, nature elements and more throughout the various speakers whenever fitting and never conflicting with any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously. Overall, this is a great little 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack that constantly delivers ably while also contributing some extra tension and fun along the way.
The Blu-ray release of ‘MA’ includes a few enjoyable extras. Included on the release is an ‘Alternate Ending’ (running approximately 2 minutes in length) and a collection of ‘Deleted Scenes’ from the movie (running approximately 11 minutes altogether), along with a couple brief Behind the Scenes Featurettes that feature some interviews/comments with members of the cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage and more. The included Featurettes are: ‘Creating Sue Ann’ (approximately 3 minutes) and ‘Party at MA’s’ (approximately 4 minutes). The film’s ‘Theatrical Trailer’ (approximately 2 minutes) is also included.