Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekly Viewing April 11th - 17th

INSIDIOUS (James Wan, 2011) -- 2.5/4

Now this is what I'm talking about. Horror rooted in both character revelation and return of the repressed confrontations, James Wan concocts a fitting homage to his beloved Universal Horror Classics, while also traversing ground that encompasses but surpasses the scare tactics of the Paranormal Activity films. Here's a haunted house flick that genuinely ratchets up the tension in several late sequences, besting Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell in terms of both humor and sophistication. Unfortunately, Wan relies upon far too many blaring string crescendos and jump scares to truly assume rank as one of the greats (The Innocents remains the greatest film of this sub-genre), plus he really doesn't excavate much of a discernable subtext at all, but that doesn't negate the game effort, a welcome bit of horror ingenuity amidst the genre's now banal tidal wave.

SOURCE CODE (Duncan Jones, 2011) -- 2.5/4

Definitely old school in its approach to suspense, Duncan Jones' sophomore feature deftly navigates a simplistic premise, coherent enough to allow for character growth, nicely played by key actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan. The beats of revelation are those of a calculated script, forced and mechanical, especially the risible motivations of the terrorist. Buzz phrases like "war on terror" come and go without warrant - and the ending seems to miss the bittersweet irony an alternate would have provided. Clearly, issues abound, but the core of compassion through understanding so nicely comes together, that exterior issues become less problematic.

RAISING CAIN (Brian De Palma, 1992) -- 3/4 [REWATCH]

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973) -- 3/4 [REWATCH]

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (Peter Weir, 1975) -- 3.5/4

Peter Weir's ultra-aestheticized masterpiece delivers a knockout punch as a work of art - meditative, critical, stripped of dramatics. The film's meta-aspects, while impressively implicit, are not necessarily the point of the piece, thus allowing the images to speak for themselves. The inherent examination of the fetishization of the innocent female body - physical totality as the ethos of a society that cannot recognize existential or spiritual awareness (despite belonging to rigid religious denominations), is made clear by a doctor who keeps referring to the girls as "intact." As reverie, Weir could not be less intact, denying wholly rational or empirical modes of thought as restrictive and damaging to the human soul. Moreover, any explicit meaning is omitted, thus the art achieves a transcendental state through affect, ironically eroticized. It's a staggering viewing experience.

THE PASSENGER (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975) -- 2.5/4 [REWATCH]

The Passenger finds Antonioni at the breaking point - a visually taut film wholly detached, making even the always charismatic Jack Nicholson seem dull, without feeling. What to make of it? Comparable to late period Godard, there are numerous cinematic proficiencies, but without any tangible or compelling reason to engage. A thorough example of self-indulgence, it seems better in hindsight, without the long stretches of nothingness. Unlike Blow-Up (perhaps his greatest achievement), Antonioni neglects human evolution (ethically, morally, or spiritually), thus dissolving a core upon which his visuals can hang from. A few great dialogue exchanges don't compensate for that lacking, so while there's certainly much to contemplate, nothing truly profound manifests.

SCREAM 4 (Wes Craven, 2011) -- 3/4

Scream 4 Review


  1. I was digging "Insidious" pretty well until the goofy monster and the ridiculous supernatural elements revealed themselves. Other than "Death Sentence," I have yet to really enjoy a James Wan film.

    DId you hear that the film "Source Code" caused Elvis Mitchell to be fired from his job? Dude wrote a review based on an outdated draft of the film's script, and when director Duncan Jones noticed this, he called him on it, prompting Mitchell's company to place him under review before a swift termination. Sad, because Mitchell has written some great reviews. But if a film critic fails at the task of watching a film that they are supposed to be reviewing, I can't blame someone for firing them. It's inexcusable, especially now when film critics are being laid off across the nation. It actually made me lose respect for the guy.

  2. Oh wow, I hadn't heard that story about Elvis Mitchell. He's always been a favorite of mine and, frankly, still is. Of course, what he did was highly unprofessional. But that guy is way too cool and knowledgeable for me to let something like this prevent me from continuing my love affair.