Monday, October 31, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3

Paranormal Activity 3 – 85min-R

This is the third installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise. It’s a prequel of sorts as it fills in more of the backstory of the original film. This movie was originally a one trick pony. The first one had unique premise and it was fine as one movie. This is another example of how an idea can get run into the ground. The few good startling bits were separated by long parts where nothing happened but sleeping and panning. This movie did make me afraid: afraid someone would see me coming out of this movie. For all of its attempts to give us character development, it was not enough to make me interested. This movie scares up a red light.

This movie starts in a confusing manner, they lead off with the footage from the break in aftermath of the second film, Katie (Katie Fetherston) brings some stuff over for her sister, Kristi Ray (Sprague Grayden), to store. In one of the boxes are some VHS tapes and on one of those tapes an explanation to how this all started. The footage on the VHS tape shows us how Kate and Kristi Ray begin this haunting journey. Julie (Lauren Bittner) and live-in boyfriend Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith) live together with Julie’s Daughters Katie (Chloe Csengery) eight years old and Kristi Rey (Jessica Tyler Brown) five years old are experiencing a haunting. Dennis is a wedding videographer and captures an odd event after an earthquake. He wants to capture more of the odd things that are going on in the house so he gets more cameras and covers his house completely. We watch through the eyes of the cameras the events that transpired in 1988. One part that I don’t get is the fanatical dedication these characters have for filming every aspect of their lives.

The original was great. It was a very unique idea, like a campfire ghost story, the audience does all the heavy lifting at being scared, however this film is not so interesting to build an entire franchise around. I love the new direction the original took in no sound track and setting the mood without camera tricks. The problem is that when you do the same unique and original idea again it loses its shine the more times you do it. The director (Henry Joost) was following the same formula as the other films. The downside is that the formula really only good once. He paid attention to the styles of the 80’s and the camera technology. I wish he would have paid as much attention to the story. The plot lumbered along in an awkward, choppy manner and was very predictable. There was an odd choice of editing, sometimes they would jump time and sometimes they just sped up time. In the scenes where you have a purpose to speed up time to show an ominous figure watching the main characters sleep is fine. But they did not seem to have the knack of telling what scenes worked like that and what scenes did not. They seemed to just do the edits randomly. The waiting was overly long and the scary parts were quite predictable. Christopher B. Landon wrote this script and his earlier work was better, He wrote Disturbia and as a Rear Window inspired story it was not half bad. He needs to get his edge back.

Spoiler Warning!!!! There Be Ghost of Spoilers here!!!!

The saddest part of the movie is where the girl is playing Bloody Marry in her bathroom. My heart was breaking when she was crying in the corner. I felt really bad for her more than I was scared. Chloe Csengery really made that scene.

I was a bit confused by the start or lead in. It took off from the beginning of the second movie, and took a weird turn from there, leading to the past by indicating that a VHS tape from 1988 has the history of how they started to become haunted. The timeline is a bit muddled. I guess they thought they needed to do it that way to fit into the franchise.

I really don’t have anything more to say about the film other than it should have been left alone from the first installment. What other movies have been overused and should have been left alone?

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Thing (2011)

The Thing (2011) – 103min – R

I’m a big fan of John Carpeneter’s The Thing (1982). A friend introduced it to me and we watched it on TV. It was the first time I noticed how badly swear words were dubbed on network TV. “FRY YOU, PALMER” became our inside joke. The Thing is a prequel to the 1982 movie of the same name. That’s not going to get confusing at all. It was going to be a remake but the studio said no, you can’t touch this classic. So the next best thing is to do a prequel. This movie brings us the events that led up to the classic film. It was a poor effort and fell short on a few important points. I give it a red light.

The prequel’s story starts out with Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) recruiting Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winsted), a Columbia graduate, to come to Antarctica and work on a discovery. They tell her nothing except that it’s big and they need an answer right now. A friend of hers, Adam (Eric Christian Olsen), is the doctor’s research assistant and says it’s going to be a chance of a lifetime. She agrees to join them and they take her along. They are flown to the camp by Sam (Joel Edgerton) and Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). They land at camp and immediately go to the crash site and pull an alien up from the ice. That synopsis is the end of the original content, sorry for ruining it. The move from this point on is a rehash of the original. It is really a shame that the advancement in effects technology was not better used. The flaws with this move were neither in the performances nor the concept. It was the complete lack of originality. One of the best aspects of the original was the tension in the distrust that all of the characters had. The development of the tension was much better done.

The writer (Eric Heisserer) has done another remake: A Nightmare on Elm Street and a sequel: Final Destination 5. His body of work consists of rehashed ideas. He needs to break away from the stories that may have influenced him in his youth and do something completely original. To provide you a contrast to a good retelling or a new take on the original story listen to this podcast on escape pod. The Things by Peter Watts. This story takes the original in a much better direction than the prequel did. The director (Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.) is also a new player to the industry with very few credits to his name. His attention to detail was sometimes good, but you can see his inexperience in the lack of story development and tired dedication to the jump out and scare you tactics in his film.

Spoiler Warning!!! Humans only beyond this point!!!

I am really just covering these up out of habit; there are no new ideas here and nothing to spoil.

My main continuity gripes from one movie to another are the lack of consistence with the events that happened at the Norwegians base camp. There were some really good details like the axe in the door, the suicide victim frozen. All of those were good. The style of technology on the ship exterior was also done well. It’s a shame that they did not match the body of the merged alien from the original to the body that was made by CGI Effects. Both had two faces in mid merge but why not seamlessly make those faces match from the original to the prequel. Also the block of Ice in the original was defiantly sections out to be put together, why not work in a reason why it looks like that in the prequel.

The prequel also pulled some elements from Alien. This movie has a female character that battles the monster by herself and is stranded, admittedly not in space but in the middle of Antarctica, but makes it out alive. I am guessing that this is from the writers past influences and wants to meld them together. I really hope they stop doing rehashes and start on something original.

I also hated the way that Kate was treated by the doctor, it got to me. Perhaps they put that into the story because it was to make the audience care for her more, I don’t know it just seemed out of place for this kind of movie, the tension should come from humans verses aliens, not a human power struggle.

What movies in your opinion have defined a genre? The Thing (1982), I think, set a standard for horror. What do you think?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Way

The Way - 121min – PG13

The title of my blog is a blessing and a curse. I walk up and ask “what is showing next?” I have been told that this will subject me to a lot of bad films, and it has. It is the risk I am willing to take because of the amazing movies that come along and surprise me. It is 12:47am and I am so moved by this film that I can’t go to sleep until my thoughts are out on paper, or computer that is. The Way is a movie that makes all the bad movies worthwhile. It is the reason why I started to write about film. The Way is a small picture, but it has such a powerful presence that it needs to be the model for big budget films. It was filmed with passion and care. It’s a movie that brings you along its journey of self-discovery and invites you to share in the richness of other cultures. This movie has not only earned a green light from me, but it has earned a place among my favorite films.

The movie surrounds Tom (Martin Sheen), who is going overseas to recover the body of his son Daniel (Emilio Estevez), who perished in an accident while traveling the “El Camino de Santiago”. Tom decides to continue his son’s pilgrimage and carry his ashes through the journey. Along the way Tom builds a relationship with Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), and Jack (James Nesbitt). Everyone who makes the pilgrimage does so for their own very personal reasons. Along the way they learn to share not only the road but each other’s burdens. The characters in this film are completely enjoyable. I found myself caring for each of them. They actors did a great job of showing the development of each of the characters, all of them started the journey with things they needed to work through, and it was great to watch them complete the journey physically and emotionally.

Emilio Estevez is working in a way that few people can accomplish. He was director, writer and stars in this movie. This movie did not feel like it was one person’s voice. It felt more like a move should, with a diverse and natural flow to the story. It is not a story that was being told to you, but an event that you experienced. The film was about people on pilgrimage and it’s a challenge to make that interesting. The Way was edited in such a way as to keep the eye engaged by the different landmarks along its journey. Estevez‘s script has some simple elements to it but like a master chef, he blends them together so that they seem much more complex. This move has many Catholic elements without preaching to you. There was no underlying agenda to its story. It was quite refreshing to see a movie with religious elements but not try to subtlety apply those themes with a sledge hammer.

Warning Spoilers!! Walk this path Carefully!!!

One of the best lines in this movie is when they are in the crazy guy’s house. Tom says his is going to go ask the crazy owner how much it’s going to be to stay and all of them decide to go with him. He asked them, “what are you, five”? Joost replies ”no, just scared”.

I really liked the way that the Gypsies were portrayed in this film. It takes a stab at changing the image that they are all thieves. Antonio Gil played the Father of a young Gypsy. He is one of my favorite characters. Making his son carry the backpack he stole for the person he stole it from was a great touch. He gives a great line. “Our children are the best and worst of us.”

Another person that needs a special mention is Tchéky Karyo. His character starts Tom on his journey and is a wonderful guide to start him off. He asks Tom not to go because he is not ready, and when he realizes that he will not change his mind, he gives him the help he needs to start off.
Another nice part is how drastically Tom has changed at the end of the film. He goes form someone who lives a life as if it was a chain, to someone who is now truly living. I loved seeing him in Cairo (I think) walking along the streets.

Rotten Tomatoes has this list thing where they ask a star what their five favorite movies are, what are yours? This is now in my top five.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Ides of March

The Ides of March – 101 min – R

I was looking forward to watching The Ides of March. The Trailer makes it look like this decade’s American President. I was looking for a movie that shows a political campaign and the contenders are faced with moral questions and have to choose between what is right and what is popular. It’s a world that has tough choices and the right people make those choices and this movie is going to highlight the difficult journey of those people. Boy was I wrong. This movie was one man’s journey from idealist to jaded politician. I want to be clear, I am giving this a Yellow light because of the films problems with story, and not because I was disappointed at the movie’s true direction.

The story surrounds Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), a member of a Governor Mike Morris’s (George Clooney) presidential campaign. He and Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are the campaign managers. They work through a staff of young people who all believe in Morris’s message and his view of the future. Paul Giamatti plays Tom Duffy, campaign manager for Morris’s opponent. Duffy is a shrewd player in the political jungle, bringing a devious political expertise to the story. The race is being covered by reporter Ida (Marisa Tomei), who is outstanding in this role. She really did a great job as a political reporter that keeps her eye on the story. Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) is a young campaign intern and Stephen’s love interest. Jeffrey Wright plays a Senator who is selling his endorsement for a cabinet posting. They escort us on journey of sacrificing political ideals on the altar of politics. This is not the story of a politician who has to make the right hard choices. It’s more a story of Icarus who flies too close to the sun and falls to earth. As good as each of these performances were, I did not like most of the characters. The only character I mildly liked was Paul, because through this story he was the only one who was consistent. My problem was in this entire movie there are no good guys. There is no one whom you feel for.

This movie was heavy handed and at times overbearing in its political message. Politics is bad. I don’t think that people today really need to be told that. If anything, we could use a message that shows us a different way of doing things. A way that we can point to as an example and say “this is how we should act, this is the standard we need to hold our political figures to.”

George Clooney had a hand in most of the production in this movie. He co-wrote, directed, performed and produced. I would caution anyone who has enough power to do this that having complete control over a production can make it hard to get objective views during the creation of a movie. I am reminded of another George who does everything but perform and his movies have suffered from the lack of creative input from his staff. A movie is not one person’s vision but a collaboration of skills from several talented people to make someone idea come alive. One example of this is some of the dialogue coming from Ryan Gosling sounds like it is coming right out of George Clooney. You can see similar pacing coming from each of the characters. Grant Heslov also helped write this movie and he has some great movies under his belt and I have enjoyed his acting one of my favorites is in True Lies, We need to see him in more movies.

WARNING Spoilers: No Members of the Press Beyond this point.

I was completely angry at Stephen when he was giving his speech to Molly about how if you make a mistake you have to take your lumps and step away. He was right in the same spot not a minute later with Paul telling him he made a mistake. Hypocrite, I am still brisling over that scene.

Jennifer Ehle was completely underused in this film. She was really just a set dressing through the entire picture. She has one touching scene with the Governor in the car but really she was under used in this film. Her performance in Contagion was much better role for her.

Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the movie in one look. He steps out of a dinner, lights up a smoke and then gets called into a car. He sets his cigarette down on a ledge of a brick wall before he gets in and the wind blows it off the ledge. As he gets out of the car just receiving the news he is off the campaign, he looks down at the cigarette that has blown onto the street, it is such a small gesture but it completely symbolizes his disappointment.

What movie presidential candidate would you vote for?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Contagion – 106min – PG13

If you are contemplating a germaphobic lifestyle, I would say you need to see this film. It is a recruitment film for the sterile agenda. It is all about the genesis of a disease and how it can wipe out millions of people because of the way we live and how we interact with one another. The movie is well done but an ensemble cast is sometimes hard to watch. I find myself interested in only some of the characters. This story places several characters as interpreters of the main star, the virus. As a concept this movie was great, it was executed well but overall for entertainment value this movie rates only a sickly yellow light.

The cast list is as long as my arm and most of them did really well. But the main star of this movie was MEV-1 virus. This story surrounds how it gets kicked off with one person and then spreads through the population. The evolution of this disease gets told through the eyes of the following characters: the Emhoff family Mitch (Matt Damon) and Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow), their two kids Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron) and Andrew (Joshua Seiden);Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) and Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) of the CDC, working towards a cure; Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) of the WHO who is searching for the origins of the virus; and conspiracy theorist blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) who sees himself as a messiah. With all of this talent is a shame that the movie was so focused on everyone it did not give us time to really connect with anyone. The main failing of this film is it’s a collection of short films all about the same topic but they don’t really hold together well in one story. Just when I was feeling something for one of the characters I was whisked off to another part of the world and I had to recalibrate and try to reconnect with those characters and their version of the problem.

The overall story suffers from its overzealous attempt to get a global view in such a short time. This story really could have been a miniseries and we could have spent more time getting to know the characters. The writer, Scott Z. Burns, needs to be commended on tackling this large project and making it into a story. It’s an interesting concept and it’s adequately done, but it does not have enough time to really drive a connection. Director Steven Soderbergh made a great film that is beautiful and thought-provoking. I really enjoyed the way it was filmed -- the long pauses on the items that passed the contagion and the surrounding problems once people stop doing things like collecting garbage. Putting the population tallies under the city names in scene changes was a truly great idea to put things in perspective. In the end I need to ask if this was the right vehicle for this story. I could see this being on HBO or on TNT as a miniseries but not an episodic show.


I got a very Hitchcockian feel from the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow was featured so prominently in the previews and the DIES within the first 10 min of the movie. Hitchcock did the same thing in Psycho with Janet Leigh.

This movie pulls no punches in its setting the bar in how fatal this virus is by also killing Beth’s son because she passed the virus off to him in a loving welcome home hug. OK, I am watching a movie where there are no boundaries on who is at risk, got it.

Jude Law is a marvelous performer I truly hated his character in this movie. He embodied all that is bad with humanity and I feel guilty for thinking this but if his followers were dumb enough to follow his advice I am kind of glad that they are not going to be in the gene pool. Humanity is better off. *Smug Mode Disengage.*

I thought the very ending should have been left off. We don’t get anything more from the story to learn that a bat was eating something over a pig pen and a pig ate its leftovers and we picked that up from a chef who did not wash his hands. Leaving it as an open topic of discussion would have been better, all I learned from this film’s ending is never shake hands with a cook. They are icky.

What other movies would have been better as a miniseries than a film. Tell me about it?