If you’ve never seen a haunted house movie, The Conjuring might be scary to you. For a standard haunt-flick, it’s relatively well executed. But the problem is : The Haunting (1963), The Exorcist, Poltergeist, and Paranormal Activity all exist. So do The Ring, Cure, Drag Me to Hell, and The Uninvited. And so do about 180,000 other haunted house / haunted spirit movies. The Conjuring did not bring anything new to the party.
I think there is a core popularity to the haunted house movie that connects to the public’s obsession with Halloween. It’s not that it’s that outlandishly scary to people, but they are entertained nonetheless. My problem is that I’m not entertained. It’s — as Simon Cowell would say — all a bit boring to me. I’ve seen this a thousand times before, so all the flagellations, spasms and contortions in the world don’t get my juices flowing. What excites me is a good scary story.
Most often the scariest movies are ones that are solidly non-supernatural. Give me something truly “Insidious” like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Dead Calm, Orphan, or The Shining.
In The Conjuring, the house wasn’t that creepy, and a pseudo-historical context wasn’t taken advantage of, and neither was a very cool boggy backyard pond. At the beginning we are informed that the movie is based on a true story. Yea right. There wasn’t even anything conjured, especially not fear. 3/10
After I posted yesterday on Blue Valentine, I was surprised to find out that it is available via streaming on Netflix, which is like having a free rental if you already have the subscription. A quick follow-up revealed that three more Gosling pictures are available: Lars and the Real Girl, Drive [prior post], and All Good Things (with Kirsten Dunst). I recommend all of these, but Lars and the Real Girl was my introduction to Gosling and is an utterly charming, delightful picture. When I saw Crazy, Stupid, Love. a couple years later, I had forgot that this sophisticated ladies man was the same actor who played Lars, a character that Ebert described as:
a painfully shy young man who can barely stand the touch of another human being. He functions in the world and has an office job, but in the evening, he sits alone in a cabin in the back yard of his family home.
When I connected the disparate Crazy, Stupid and Lars roles to the same actor, I was struck by the range of Gosling. Mixing in his other performances, you’d be hard pressed to make a case for another actor who’s any better.
All Good Things – click for trailer
When I saw the trailer for Blue Valentine (below), I knew I had to see this movie. I wasn’t disappointed, and you won’t be either. But don’t expect a happy-go-lucky rom-com; this isn’t that. The trailer had me thinking this would be a more upbeat movie, so I was taken aback a little at its downbeat nature. But it has stuck in my head since I saw it a year or so ago. The lasting impact reminds me how good it was. Roger Ebert brilliantly wrote:
Derek Cianfrance, the film’s writer and director, observes with great exactitude the birth and decay of a relationship. This film is alive in its details. Toward the end of the six years, when Cindy is hardly able to remember why she wanted to marry Dean, Cianfrance observes the physical and mental exhaustion that has overcome her. And the way that Dean seems hardly to care — just so long as Cindy remains his wife and his watcher, which in his mind was the deal. Dean thinks marriage is the station. Cindy thought it was the train.
Recommended for anyone who wants to see a powerful love story played by the two best actors of their generation in exceptionally intimate roles. 9/10
THERE WAS A TIME not that long ago when great, original films on a grand scale came out at regular intervals. Steven Spielberg had a lot to do with it. Nowadays a great and original movie is more likely to be a small indie. Thank goodness for Quentin Tarantino — and a select few others — who can still make movies that are big both in budget and in concept.
Everyone should be familiar with the Spielberg-produced megapop masterpiece Back to the Future (1985), directed and co-written by Robert Zemeckis. But a central aim of my blog is to identify and give due adulation to all the movies I’ve seen in my life which deserve such recognition. And who knows, maybe there’s someone out there who hasn’t seen some of the most famous blockbusters. Back to the Future embodies perfection of the sci-fi pop genre. Considering recent big flops [prior post], it might be a good idea for studios to reexamine classic successes like this one, and perhaps find a little inspiration. 10/10
Cate Blanchett was such a revelation when introduced to the world as the young Queen Elizabeth. She seemed so ideally cast as to represent a direct reincarnation of the actual, long lost ruler. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in that role.
She is not my favorite actress, but there’s no question she’s one of the best around, and her interview with Charlie Rose is intriguing.
I’ve been going to sleep earlier lately, and a big downside on that is not being able to watch Charlie Rose on a regular basis. Luckily I was able to catch the beginning of this interview, and luckily Rose posts his shows online.
I saw Machete in the theater in 2010, and don’t have an exceptionally clear memory of it — which means it was not outstanding to me at the time. I remember being entertained, but I don’t now recall enough to recommend it one way or the other. Nonetheless, Robert Rodriguez is another of those directors, like Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, and Wes and Paul Thomas Anderson, who has an idea — though certainly less so than those esteemed filmmakers. But an idea is better than no idea. Hopefully Machete Kills, to be released October 4, will live up to its promise — because it looks like it could be a blast.
The Times has a couple articles and a slide show around the release of his latest movie, Blue Jasmine. The trailer makes this film seem rather lame; nonetheless, I will make sure to see it in the theater. Woody Allen is one of those filmmakers who has an idea, and every time he releases a picture it’s an event.
On the set of Blue Jasmine