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Amour - 10/10
Argo - 9/10
The Avengers - 8/10
Beasts of the Southern Wild - 10/10
Being Flynn - 5/10
Cabin in the Woods - 10/10
Chronicle - 8/10
Cloud Atlas - 10/10
Compliance - 9/10
Damsels in Distress - 8/10
The Dark Knight Rises - 10/10
Haywire - 8/10
Headhunters - 9/10
Holy Motors - 10/10
The Hunger Games - 8/10
The Innkeepers - 8/10
Life of Pi - 10/10
Like Someone in Love - 8/10
Looper - 9/10
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present - 9/10
The Master - 10/10
Moonrise Kingdom - 9/10
Prometheus - 5/10
The Raid: Redemption - 8/10
Savages - 5/10
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie - 4/10
Wanderlust - 7/10
Your Sister's Sister - 7/10
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
House of Gothicism
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is exactly the kind of horror movie you want to hate. It's a remake, it involves a child in peril, and it contains some (and I say "some") very nasty violence. Just watch--you'll have trouble hating it.
Guillermo del Toro's new collaborative effort with first-time director Troy Nixey is, simply put, horror done right. There's a lot here that can be found in any horror movie that comes out now, but this one succeeds for relying on tone and setting rather than blood and guts. The acting from all three leads is surprisingly good, and Nixey shines as well behind the camera.
However, at the heart of the film is a ballsy story co-written by del Toro that really keeps the film stable. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is originally based on a 1973 British TV movie that has been hailed as one of the scariest movies ever made. The remake features a new main character: Sally, a child, played by Bailee Madison. Sally moves into a new Gothic mansion with her father (Guy Pearce) and a new stepmother (Katie Holmes). There, she discovers a ventilation system where she hears breathy voices calling to play with her. At first, the voices are friendly. Then, they're vicious and violent.
The violence of the movie is one of the reasons why this movie succeeds so nicely. The first scene is grisly and is, without a doubt, the reason why Don't Be Afraid of the Dark earned its R-rating rather than its intended PG-13. There isn't constant violence. In fact, there isn't even that much of it. Most of it is bloodless, but all of it is enough to make us squeamish and afraid.
Another area in which the movie excels in that respect is its design. The mansion that Nixey and del Toro chose is gorgeous. The intense lighting, which Nixey noted as "inspired by Rembrandt" in the Q&A following the film, is moody and adds to the heavy tone of the movie. The house is just creepy on its own, but it becomes creepier thanks to the creature design. Unlike what the trailer tells you, the creatures are pretty tiny. What creeped me out about them was the loud, shrill screeches they let out. It'll give you chills. Keep a keen ear and listen for del Toro, as he voices a few of the creatures.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a very fun and very creepy horror movie experience. Though not without its flaws, it has a strong story stabilized by good characters and a surprisingly dark ending, and it's got some good acting too. It's hard not to be absorbed in the mesmerizing light pools of the mansion, and it's even harder not to be entertained. As usual in del Toro films, darkness and unseen monsters reign, and as usual, it's pretty damn unnerving.
What My Childhood Died For
I remember when I was five years old. I remember my mother reading Harry Potter to me, the way her hands turned the pages, the way she placed her bookmark in the book when she thought I had fallen asleep. I remember wanting to be Harry Potter. I was Harry Potter twice for Halloween, as a matter of fact, wandless and only armed with jack-o-lantern shaped box for keeping candy. And now, almost at age 18, I have created a new memory of my own, that of sitting next to my mother, and now my brother, in a dark theater, sobbing together at the thought that it really is the end of my favorite series, Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the near-perfect finale to one of the most beloved series ever written. David Yates has created the first, and unfortunately only, classic of the Harry Potter film series in a spectacular and emotional thrill ride. Dark, brooding, and downright suspenseful, Harry Potter ends with an enormous bang, one whose reverberations will be felt for years to come.
The bang that this movie creates only begins with its fine actors. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint have matured into real adult actors now. Once cute and dopey, the trio has now become truly magical at their profession. Though it's a spectacle to watch the chemistry between our three leads, they're overshadowed by an impossibly large supporting cast. Maggie Smith returns to give a sweet performance. Ralph Fiennes reprises his role as Voldemort and totally creeps us out. The real star of the show is, however, Alan Rickman. Finally, Rickman emerges from the depths of the great sets and shows his true acting chops as Snape. He's just fantastic to watch.
And the film is technically brilliant as well. The visual effects go heavy on the pyrotechnics, so why not throw in a little slow-motion while we're at it? And so David Yates does, but whereas most directors (other than Zack Snyder, that is) can't handle slow-motion, Yates does it perfectly. It's thrilling, and it's only aided by Eduardo Serra's cinematography. He's an expert at what he does: Serra loves playing with color, and it totally works in every way. Sometimes, the film is so drab looking that it almost becomes black-and-white. What Serra films is gorgeous. He's secured himself a nomination for Best Cinematography.
The film isn't without its flaws however. Steve Kloves' script is lacking as usual, placing far too much emphasis on action and not enough on the characters themselves. Humor is used improperly to lighten the otherwise moody atmosphere. That said, the way Kloves writes action, and the way Yates directs it, is marvelous.
While it can't help but feel as though there's a full half hour missing from the final cut, Yates and his team have made a brilliant film. I almost feel weird saying that a Harry Potter film is great. Mainstream films just shouldn't be this good, but thankfully, they still can be. Movie magic still does exist after all.
Unfortunately, no matter how many times we see these characters when we watch the movies or read the books again, they'll never be fully resurrected. It's the first time that matters the most. After that, it's never the same. Everything ends, unfortunately, and so does the Harry Potter series. I have grown so much with Harry Potter, but it's finally time to lay it to rest. Goodbye, Harry and crew. You'll be sorely missed.
Super 8 (2011)
Eight Reasons to See Super 8 (and Two Reasons Why Not)
Instead of presenting this as a normal review, I'll put it in the form of bullets. I just think it's more reader-friendly for this. It also helps to avoid plot details, and that's probably better if you want to go in with a blank slate.
1. If you like Steven Spielberg, you'll like this movie. J.J. Abrams has clearly created the movie as a homage to the classics that Spielberg has made. Echoes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jurassic Park are felt throughout the entire film. Super 8 directly borrows Jaws' style in that the viewer only gets brief glimpses at the monster for the first two thirds; it isn't until the last third that the viewer sees it in its entirety.
2. The acting. Elle Fanning is the highlight of a great cast of child actors. Fanning has proved herself once with Somewhere, but she ups the ante with Super 8. There's one great scene where she has to act as though she's acting in a movie filmed by the other children. She, along with the rest of them, nails it.
3. J.J. Abrams' script. The writing is one of the best things about Super 8. It's rich, fast, and, again, Spielbergian. Abrams' screenplay is delightful because it plays on the viewer's own childhood memories. It's basically one long nostalgia trip.
4. J.J. Abrams' direction. He basically becomes Steven Spielberg to make this movie, as seen in his use of constant Steadicam shots and visual restraint when it comes to the shots of the monster in the early parts of the movie.
5. The cinematography and color palette. Also reminiscent of 1970s blockbuster film is the visual look of the movie. The drowned-out colors are similar to that of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
6. The train sequence. The best scene in the movie is one involving a train crash. It's basically what you've already seen from the first trailer, but this time, it's from a different point-of-view. Watch this in a big theater. You're going to want to hear how great the sound editing is in this scene.
7. The monster. I'm not going to say anything other than that I very much enjoyed the way the monster looked.
8. The tone. Like The Goonies, Super 8 is a summer movie that's made to make you feel like a kid again. It's wonderful, at times whimsical and at other times frightening. It's exactly what one should want from a summer movie, but...
Reasons why not to see Super 8: 1. J.J. Abrams got too bogged down in becoming Steven Spielberg. The film is sometimes obnoxious in how much it wants to be Jaws. This ends up getting in the way of the film's great story, and keeps it from becoming a classic.
2. It's not perfect. Super 8 has pacing issues a lot of the time and will often involve characters and subplots that completely unnecessary. There are certain elements of the movie that could have absolutely been taken away without any repercussions.
Overall, Super 8 is worth seeing. Take the family out and have fun. See it in a big theater with a good sound system. It's a fun but unfortunately forgettable ride.
Another Earth (2011)
Two Can Be as Bad as One; It's the Loneliest Number Since One
Just what is it about indie science fiction that is so fascinating? Maybe it's the idea that great effects are done on a small budget. Or maybe it's the simple fact that it's indie filmmaking. Regardless of pretense or the filmmaker's confinements, indie movies of the "lesser" genres (action, horror, sci-fi, etc.) almost always impress, Another Earth being no exception to this general rule.
Another Earth marks a marvelous turn that most sci-fi movie writers are too scared to take, and that is into the realm of a character drama. Mike Cahill's thought-provoking debut as director (and writer and cinematographer and editor) is a risky venture, but it almost always works. Unfortunately, Cahill has concocted a premise that is too interesting for his small, pensive movie, but the beautiful Brit Marling makes it possible to ignore most of the film's most glaring issues as she sweeps the audience away with her acting.
It's best to go into Another Earth without any outside knowledge, but if you've come to this page, you probably know too much already. Here is your chance to leave before I begin with story details...
Still with me? Good. Another Earth is centered around Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling), an MIT student who becomes frenzied after she finds out that scientists have discovered a planet nicknamed Earth 2. Earth 2 is the same in composition as our earth, however the problem is that Earth 2 has suddenly moved from behind the sun and into view in our night sky. Rhoda drunkenly leaves a party and drives away, only to accidentally hit another family's car while she is stargazing. The mother and child are killed; the father (William Mapother), on the other hand, is left in a coma. Four years later, Rhoda is released from jail and the father awakens from his coma. It's up to Rhoda to find the courage to apologize and right what she has done wrong.
Visually, Another Earth is an impressive film. There's a constant reminder that the film is independent--Cahill is forced to rely on grainy hand-held shots for some of the film's most beautiful moments--and yet it's very well-done for a film that supposedly cost $150,000 to make. Cahill returns to his roots in filming sharks and jellyfish for National Geographic by giving the human form a feeling of mystique. There are quite a few shots of Rhoda walking in slow-motion, Earth 2 looming in the background. But it's all worth it: the viewer is constantly introduced to the world's cruelty and ugliness, but Cahill has somehow made it serene and strangely inviting.
Whether or not Another Earth could have possibly held together without great actors is something that should be called into question. Brit Marling gives the performance that every actress wants to give. She adds a seemingly impossible amount of depth to the character of Rhoda. We feel her pain constantly, and it's all thanks to Marling. Marling is worthy of a Best Actress nomination for her work in Another Earth. Although William Mapother is not to be ignored either. Maybe you've seen him on "Lost" when he played Ethan, however here, he doesn't play a baddie. He's honest and human in his slice-of-life performance.
Another Earth isn't perfect, in fact, it's far from it. The interesting ideas of two earths, a whole new you, and fear of doppelgangers is underused, if not absent entirely. The ending is, without a doubt, science fiction at its best, however it's really the only scene in the movie that is pure sci-fi. The ending could be a "twist," but I'm not going to call it that because the ending is just as subtle as the rest of the movie. Nevertheless, it packs a punch. Cahill should feature the same premise in his next film, but this time, he should entertain all the special effects that everyone wanted to see in this one.
At the Sundance Film Festival this year, Another Earth won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, an award given to the film that best portrays a sci-fi story. There may not have been many movies at Sundance that could have qualified, but there's no question that Another Earth deserved. Cahill's first movie is quiet, well-made, and has the makings of an indie classic. Brit Marling and William Mapother's chemistry perfectly fits Cahill's excellent script, causing the audience to ponder "What if...?" for the entire movie. It's mystifying science fiction, the kind without explosions and the kind without little green men. And Cahill proves that this, this lo-fi, destructive, and emotionally tense meditation, may be the best kind of science fiction.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
"Do you think it's possible to love two women at the same time?," asks our protagonist Gil Prender to a tour guide discussed Auguste Rodin's love for his mistress and his wife. Like that's the first time we've heard that question in a Woody Allen movie. Infidelity, gorgeous women, and neuroticism are some of Allen's favorite motifs, so it's really not too much of a surprise that they all appear in Midnight in Paris.
That said, Allen's rendition of those ideas feels fresh this time. Midnight in Paris is a sweet, fun romp through the art world of France. This light comedy may not have some of the heavier messages about adultery and art that previous Allen films have had, but Midnight in Paris is, nonetheless, an enjoyable exercise in allusion to the Lost Generation and artists of the 1920s.
Midnight in Paris begins with the same idea of a man, in this case a screenwriter named Gil played by Owen Wilson, searching for connection with the real world. The protagonist is clearly a projection of Allen's self, but no matter. Gil is engaged to the Inez, played by a blond Rachel McAdams who coincidentally (or is it?) looks like Scarlet Johansson from Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Inez bores Gil with her pretentious friends and spiteful parents, which ultimately causes Gil to seek inspiration on his own time by drunkenly wandering that streets of Paris. One night, he is invited into a car that takes him back to the 1920s where he meets his favorite writers and artists, something that eventually leads to a breakthrough in his work. A large supporting cast includes Kathy Bates, Allison Pill, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen, and Marion Cotillard.
Allen's conception of Paris is just as romantic as the story itself. The film's physical look matches some of the complexities of the women in that it appears to be almost splashed in gold. It is, after all, the City of Lights. It's a beautiful movie that matches the pretty faces of its starring women.
Allen's screenplay leaps right off the page thanks to his cast, but this too is something that isn't unusual for a Woody Allen film. At his best, Allen picks actors that play their parts with a sense of realism that, when combined with some elements of the fantastic, charm the audience. Just about everyone here manages to do just this, with the exception of Rachel McAdams, who tries her hardest with an underdeveloped character. Marion Cotillard is the best of the cast (as per usual) in her role as Picasso's mistress. She's bursting with sexuality yet she's grounded in her ability to deliver her dialogue with her natural French accent.
Midnight in Paris is fantastique. In comparison to Woody Allen's previous tales of lust and spite, his newest film feels like a dessert rather than a filling entree, yet this is exactly how a good, highbrow summer movie should be. The cast shines just as bright as the lights at the top of the Eiffel Tower and Allen proves himself worthy of his place in society as a master director once again. By no means a classic, Midnight in Paris is a pretty little diversion, one that is grounded in a theatrical gimmick that totally works every time. This, along with The Tree of Life, will be one of a few summer movies that will dazzle visually (without explosions) and somehow manage not to insult the viewer's intelligence.
The Tree of Life (2011)
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
As enigmatic as Terrence Malick films usually are, The Tree of Life poses quite a problem for anyone trying to make sense out of it. It's arguable whether the film actually has a story, and there's very little spoken dialogue. But it takes a true auteur to make a great film without those necessary elements. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with Terrence Malick, art- house provocateur and world-class director.
The Tree of Life is, simply put, a masterpiece. It's pure art, a wonderfully ambitious mystery that runs just under two hours and a half. Malick has created cinema at its finest--it shocks, it causes awe, and it requires thought. While the entire cast's mostly silent performances are amazing, they're overshadowed by the visual poetry of Malick's creation.
The creation of the universe is what this movie opens with, and its destruction is its finale. Immediately, the viewer knows what he's getting into. Reviewers have called this the "most ambitious film since 2001: A Space Odyssey," and they're totally right in saying that. It's a literal journey of a movie, one that stretches from prehistoric times to the future, but one that focuses primarily on a family living in the 1950s in Texas. The father is Brad Pitt. He's stern and believes that the matriarch, played by Jessica Chastain, is naive for fostering a relationship with the world that allows for innocence. Their three children age with them, only to learn life's true lessons.
Most of the feeling of wonderment from in The Tree of Life arises from the fact that it is gorgeous. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who has worked with Malick previously on The New World, brings his visual prowess to the movie by putting so much care into every shot. The composition and camera angle of every single shot are not only beautiful but they're meaningful as well.
And yet Malick's film is still cryptic. While Lubezki presents the viewer with colorful, almost sensuous shots of nature, Malick has chosen to keep the viewer interpreting. The creation sequence, easily the best part of the film, includes dinosaurs, hammerhead sharks, jellyfish, close-ups of mitosis, and cosmic nebulae over Mozart's "Lacrimosa." It's all beautiful, but why is it here? That's for you to mull over.
The Tree of Life is an experience, not a movie. Movies present a story and portray a clear message to the viewer. Experiences are something more, and The Tree of Life is just this because it is something of a revelation. Riddled with biblical imagery, the movie's central themes are deeply religious and personal. The Tree of Life is cinematic heaven, a film that is so moving on a primordial level that it inspires fear and awe. There's simply nothing on earth like it.
Having the Wedding Cake and Eating it Too. It's a Women's World, After All.
Maybe gross-out comedy and chick flicks aren't usually connected, but that should all change with Paul Feig's Bridesmaids. The Judd Apatow-backed comedy boldly bucks that trend by carefully balancing emotional elements and hilarious jokes. What many comedies are incapable of doing these days is getting dramatic points across while simultaneously making the audience laugh. And that is just where Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig's screenplay succeeds so brilliantly. There is, of course, a brilliant group of actresses that puts her writing to work as well. This cliché-busting doesn't last the entire movie, however--it regresses into typical romantic comedy territory in the final third--but no matter, Bridesmaids is one of the only funny comedies in recent memory.
Bridesmaids' wonderful central character is Annie, played by Kristen Wiig. Annie's life hasn't been every woman's dream. Her venture as a baker has failed completely, she can't afford her rent, she has occasional sexual romps with a man (Jon Hamm) who refuses to be her boyfriend, and she simply has no friends. Even worse is the fact that her best friend (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and has asked her to be the maid of honor. And to complete it all, she has to deal with a troop of other women helping with the wedding. The ensemble cast is rounded out by Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLoven-Corey, and Ellie Kemper.
But just why does Bridesmaids rise above other female-driven rom-coms? The simple answer is Kristen Wiig. Her writing breathes life into normally one-dimensional misguided women. The more complicated answer is all of the actresses' ability to make each character seem normal. More often than not, women with waists the size of toothpicks prance across the screen in search of a male counterpart that they hoped to marry. This is not the case with the women of Bridesmaids. Those who have married or placed themselves in other traditional roles have found themselves to be stuck in harmful situations. Characters like Annie who haven't still have their own problems. It's not easy being a woman, apparently (please note that I'm male), and Bridesmaids certainly glorifies living the life of a "real" woman who actually faces problems.
Bridesmaids was nicknamed "the female Hangover" when the trailer came out. That's not a horrible comparison at times, but most often, Bridesmaids is an original movie. None of the jokes are borrowed and while some of the characters feel like Apatow archetypes now, each woman seems new and enriched. Even the method in which punchlines are told is original. There are two sequences, one on a plane involving a drugged out Annie stumbling through first class and one in a fitting shop involving food poisoning and a white dress, in particular that are notable for being especially hilarious. The delivery is important: in both scenes, five jokes come together in one big punchline that caused the audience to roar with laughter. It's a grand but all too normal affair and it works for almost all of the movie.
If Bridesmaids is the future of comedy, I look forward to going to the movies more often. Women are just as hilarious as men. It's a simple fact of life that writers often ignore. And all it took was Mumolo and Wiig to show us this. Equally emotional and sexual, Bridesmaids is a smart comedy that only comes once a year. Say "I do" to Bridesmaids. It's $11 that's actually worth spending at the movies.
Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
How Did They Ever Make a Movie Like Hobo with a Shotgun?
"When life gives you razor blades, you make a baseball bat...out of razor blades!," shouts Hobo with a Shotgun's main villain, Drake, before he cuts a man in two. If that wasn't any clue as to what you can expect from Hobo with a Shotgun, then heed this: it very well be one of the most violent movies ever made. Jason Eisener's gloriously bloody neo-grindhouse movie is disturbing in every sense of the word. And what's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, apparently.
Hobo with a Shotgun is the most bizarre thrill ride of the last ten years. It's a new, classless rendition of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's neo-B-movie masterpiece Grindhouse. It definitely shows; it's often way too violent for its own good, so much to the point where it's plainly upsetting sometimes. It's not very funny, but despite all this, the movie is beautiful, if one can call it that, in its array of color. Rutger Hauer gives an amazing performance (surprisingly) and Eisener shows promise for his future as a director.
To say Hobo with a Shotgun has a plot might be a lie depending on who you ask, but it's worth reading a brief summary. Basically, the viewer is presented with a Hobo (Rutger Hauer), who gets off in Hope Town, a slum in an unnamed country. Hobo witnesses acts of violence done by Drake, a mob figure, and his two sons who act as his henchmen. He's then prompted to violence himself to correct the wrongs Drake and his two sons have inflicted upon the town. The battle escalates to a full-fledged war between the homeless of Hope Town and everyone else. What ensues is ridiculous, gory, and ridiculously gory.
Clearly, this isn't a movie for people who can't handle gore. The first ten minutes are fairly inoffensive, but the next 75 are relentless. Hobo with a Shotgun never holds back either. From penises shot at close ranges to decapitations, Hobo with a Shotgun is chock full of blood. Even more disturbing is that nobody is safe in this movie. There is in fact a scene in which a bus full of children is set on fire by the bad guys. Killing children on-screen is a generally accepted no-no in horror movies, but Hobo with a Shotgun is edgy enough to go there.
The filmmaking itself is very well-done. Jacob Eisener makes countless allusions to previous B-movies and horror masterpieces alike. And despite all the violence that could distract any viewer, the film is really a respectable piece of cinema. Rutger Hauer delivers an interesting, purposefully idiotic performance as the unnamed Hobo. Furthermore, the cinematography of Hobo with a Shotgun is drenched in a rainbow colors. Yes, it's drenched in color. Reds, greens, and blues can sometimes almost overshadow the subjects of many shots, and blood certainly tints shots a wonderful shade of raging red-orange. It's all reminiscent of Dario Argento's Suspiria, an Italian horror film that showcased its elaborate death sequences with great cinematography.
A few years down the line, nobody is going to remember Hobo with a Shotgun. Hobo is a great character. He breaks the rules. He gets the women. But he's just another guy. And that seems to be the movie's biggest problem. Hobo with a Shotgun is a knockoff version of Machete or Grindhouse. Albeit it's a pretty good one, but it's simply too disturbing to remember its story. What should be funny is often just sick. Nevertheless, Hobo with a Shotgun is a graphic, "fun" B-movie trailer adaptation.
Scream 4 (2011)
Stab Me Gently With a Machete
"What's your favorite scary movie?" whispered a faceless killer in the opening line Wes Craven's original Scream. And now, fifteen years later, it may not be the opening line anymore, but it's still that same, jarring punch of a phone conversation opener. Scream 4 shows a return to what the original was: a great, fun, and self-aware parody of the horror genre. Maybe this is for the better, maybe this is for the worse, but in the bloodiest and most meta installment yet, Craven moves the story along faster with even less horror and more comedy. Most of what the movie shows the audience is things they have seen already in the other three Screams, but it's so damn fun to watch it all unfold all over again.
Scream 4 is a similar plot to the first few. A killer strikes and people die. If you want a few more details, you can keep reading: Ghostface strikes again in Woodsboro. It's not just any coincidence that Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is back in town promoting her new autobiography of her struggles in the past fifteen years. And as the teenage bodies continue to drop, it becomes increasingly more apparent that Sidney is next. Courtney Cox and David Arquette are brought back for their original roles. The new cast members include Emma Roberts, Hayden Patteniere, Adam Brody, and Rory Culkin.
Scream 4 offers a fair amount of suspense. There are some legitimately disquieting sequences, however most are marred by blasts of annoying albeit funny comedy. The kills are notably more violent--guts and blood are everywhere by the time the kills are done--but it's not necessarily to the film's advantage. Still, as sadistic as it may be to say this, the murder sequences are planned nicely and are definitely entertaining to watch.
Comedy is used in Scream 4 more nicely than it is in all three installments. It may be used too often because it ends up replacing most of the horror, however it is certainly funny. The opening sequence is no longer scary or creepy, rather it is one convoluted joke involving three simultaneous movies. And it's all in good taste, but true fans of horror may not be happy with this one.
The cast and their characters are a major improvement over Scream 3. Hayden Patteniere is wonderful as the sarcastic Kirby, a closeted horror film geek who poses as the hot popular girl. Thankfully, Neve Campbell is featured less in this one because, as her career has progressed, she has just done more of her "pouty-face" expression for her role as Sidney. David Arquette is still insanely annoying as Dewey, but Courtney Cox is always a treat as Gale. The new cast members are satisfactory enough.
Despite a surprising ending, Scream 4 is more of the delicious same material as the first one. Scream 4 was not a needed installment. In fact, the Scream series did not need to be rebooted. But, and there's a big "but," Scream 4 is very entertaining. Scream 5 may be overkill (oh, don't you just love puns?), but for now, Scream 4 is a fun watch. See it in theaters with a large group of friends and enjoy.
Insidious is Truly Insidious
How many horror movies are actually scary? Three, maybe four? Make that five. Insidious just made the list.
James Wan's Insidious is unusual in every sense of the word. It's a 100-minute thrill ride that is a homage to countless horror movies, including Poltergeist and The Shining, and often enough, Insidious succeeds in bringing the scares. Terrifying and entertaining, Insidious threatens its viewer with an insulting amount of jump scares, however it does not matter when the result is this good. Popcorn entertainment may not be this fun again for a while.
Insidious' plot may sound contrived, and that's because it is. Leigh Whanell's original script borrows a lot of previous horror greats. Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) are a married couple with three children that have just moved into a new house. Yet not everything is perfect. The protagonists' marriage is tense and cold and there's something deeply unsettling about their home. It isn't long before one of their sons, Dalton, falls from a ladder while he is investigating a noise in the attic and becomes comatose. The house isn't done with the Lamberts yet. And the filmmakers aren't done with us either.
Wan shows a clear sense of maturity with Insidious. That is to say that he has stepped it up from the bloody albeit twisty Saw and the boring Dead Silence. Insidious alludes to past horror masterpieces frequently, and after all, isn't copying the sincerest form of flattery? Wan uses all this to his advantage--Insidious becomes creaky, slow carnival ride that never lets up. Wan has clearly learned from the masters; now he's just showing off.
As if Insidious' atmospheric tone wasn't enough, Wan has made Insidious a textbook example of horror done right. Lighting is used to create intrigue and mystery; the camera whirls and shakes to give the film an unsettling dissonance. Often Insidious verges on corny, but this is all with good intent. Violins certainly hit the high notes to give the viewer chills.
But Insidious is far from perfect. In fact, Wan's film is still marred by many flaws, notably a tonal change about halfway through that nearly wrecks any momentum gained in the quiet first act. It also seems that every two minutes there is a jump scene. This is a something that works at first, but by the end of it, it gets to be a bit much. And while there is some much needed comic relief in some of the scariest parts, it doesn't quite hang together when jokes are made. Furthermore, some elements of the plot are nonsensical, yet all this can be missed when disbelief is suspended.
In 2009, Paranormal Activity was hailed as one of the scariest movies ever. It's time for Insidious to get the recognition it deserves. Insidious may not be everyone's type of horror movie, but it's an intelligent, scary, and well-made film designed for people who actually care about watching movies. Although Insidious may take itself way too seriously, it's hard to ignore a film that is so intensely scary as this. There's one scene where Lorraine, played by Barbra Hershey, says, "I had a dream last night. I was in the house. I was very afraid." Aren't we all, darling.