Insidious: Chapter 2

September 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey
Directed by: James Wan (“Insidious”)
Written by: Leigh Whannell (“Insidious”)

With two horror films hitting theaters over the last two months, it seems director James Wan (“Saw”) has spread himself a bit thin. While his creepy 2010 chiller “Insidious” felt like an example of a well-executed throwback in the same vein as Sam Rami’s “Drag Me to Hell” the year prior, “Insidious: Chapter 2” is a prime example of what happens when a horror movie sequel goes bad. Without the tension or overall disturbing nature of the original, “Chapter 2” should close the book on Wan’s journey into the paranormal.

“Chapter 2” comes right off the heels of the first movie where Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) has escaped the spiritual world known as The Further and saved his son from the clutches of a Darth Maul-looking demon. In doing so, he becomes possessed himself and kills the supernatural medium, Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), who helped him tap into his ability to surf through parallel worlds. Now, the Lambert family, including wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and their two boys, move to Renai’s mother’s (Barbara Hershey) house for safety. But as Elise so pointedly says in the original, “It’s not the house that is haunted. It’s your son,” the Lamberts should already know their change in address isn’t going to stop the evil parasites that have already taken over Josh’s body.

Turning into a kind of poor-man’s version of “The Shining,” “The Amityville Horror,” or “Mommy Dearest,” “Chapter 2” falls back into a generic narrative and ignores the effectively sinister tone its predecessor flourished on. Instead, Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell place the Lambert family in an old, abandoned hospital and flash images of ghoulish women dressed in 19th century garb on the screen in a lame attempt to incite cheap scares like most American horror movies do these days. Basically, in “Chapter 2,” Wan takes the weakest moments of the first movie (the woeful last half hour when Wan tries to impersonate Rob Zombie) and extends them into 105 minutes of Halloween costume playtime. If you’ve seen one malevolent ghost lady with dark mascara screaming like a banshee, you’ve seen them all.

Still, credit deservedly goes to original composer Joseph Bishara, who found his way back to Wan for both “Chapter 2” and “The Conjuring” this past summer. There’s something incredibly unsettling about the warped sound Bishara has been able to create for the “Insidious” franchise. If anything keeps you up at night – if you start straining your eyes to see what is lurking in the corners of your bedroom – just hope Bishara’s composition of shrieking violins doesn’t enter your consciousness at that exact moment. In “Chapter 2,” what Bishara does with his music is really the most frightening thing you’ll experience.

The Conjuring

July 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston
Directed by: James Wan (“Insidious,” “Saw”)
Written by: Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes (“Whiteout”, “House of Wax”)

The best way to describe “The Conjuring” is to call it old school, which is an easy way to say that it’s a horror movie free from the excessive CGI, herky-jerky editing, or creepy Asian kids that have come to signify what modern horror filmmaking has become. Instead, director James Wan’s ’70s-set haunted house story goes for the slow burn and forgoes the laundry list of cheap scares typically awaiting moviegoers looking to jump out of their seats.

“The Conjuring” opens with the story of three roommates and an incredibly disturbing doll. The year is 1968, and strange things are afoot in the apartment they share. When the creepy doll starts doing predictably creepy things, the roommates call in Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), paranormal investigators with a knack for tracking down evil spirits. Three years later, Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their five daughters move into an old farm house. The discovery of things around the house like a boarded-up basement and a spooky music box give way to a full-fledged poltergeist, putting the entire family in danger. Left with no choice, the Perrons enlist the help of the Warrens, hoping to rid their home of the infesting evil.

As the first reels unwind, “The Conjuring” tiptoes on the edge of feeling routine. Family moves in to an obviously creepy old house where spooky supernatural things start happening? That plot line is like a well-worn shoe. Evil spirits start manipulating objects and/or members of said family? Seen it. But instead of going the contemporary route, ramping things up and populating the film with computer-generated terror, Wan keeps things simple and grounded. The 1970s color palette and musical selections complement the locked-down camera work, while the entire cast plays it straight, keeping the performances low-key and matter-of-fact. Wilson and Farmiga come off especially well, maintaining calm and realism in what could be scenery-chewing roles. And, in what could be the most pleasant surprise of all, that creepy doll featured so heavily in the prologue doesn’t figure into the climax whatsoever. She doesn’t wield a knife, doesn’t throw anyone down the stairs—nothing. When was the last time you could say something like that about a horror movie?

Young Adult

January 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt
Directed by: Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”)
Written by: Diablo Cody (“Juno”)

It’s taken screenwriter Diablo Cody (Showtime’s “United States of Tara”) a few years to get the memo, but in her latest film, “Young Adult,” it looks as if she’s started paying attention to some of the constructive criticism aimed straight at her hipster heart. Besides cutting back a bit on the forced pop-culture references, Cody seems to have also put the reigns on the gimmicky prose that marked her fresh albeit frustrating pro-choice dark comedy “Juno” back in 2007. She really has! Honest to blog!

Despite my own “Juno”-related cynicism, I still found the Academy Award winner a sweet coming-of-age story that would probably brighten my day if I came across it on cable. The extreme likeability of Ellen Page (“Inception”) in the title role overcame the overly smarty-pants dialogue. With “Young Adult,” however, Cody and director Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”), who reunite for the first time since the prego indie, don’t have that same advantage. Instead, Cody challenges both herself (and her audience) with a movie character as attractive on the inside as Michael Cera showing off his pasty chicken thighs in flimsy running shorts. It’s not an easy task, but with some surprisingly refined writing, Cody proves in possession of more creativity and humor than her phony pen name would lead you to believe. (That is, of course, provided you disregard her misguided foray into the horror genre with “Jennifer’s Body” as just a bad dream.)

In “Young Adult,” Oscar-winner Charlize Theron (“Monster”) stars as Mavis Gary, the kind of emotionally detached individual who doesn’t swoon over babies or cry over breakups. Author of a young-adult book series (think “Twilight Saga” scribe Stephenie Meyer without the vamps), Mavis subsists on Diet Coke breakfasts and promiscuous sex inside her filthy bachelorette pad. She spends her time watching trashy reality TV and living vicariously through the naive teenie boppers she writes about inside the pages of her paperbacks.

Having never really matured past her high school years where she was both lauded as a queen bee and loathed as a “psychotic prom-queen bitch,” Mavis enters into a delusional state of grandeur when she is included in a mass email from her ex-boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) about the birth of his new baby. Instead of simply hitting “reply” and offering congratulations, Mavis misreads the message from Buddy as a call for help and decides to pack up and pay him a visit back in her small hometown of Mercury, Minnesota. There, the cold, calculating and materialistic Mavis forms an unlikely acquaintance with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), a dweeby former high school classmate she hardly remembers despite the fact his locker was right next to hers. As Matt, Oswalt gives a sincere and grounded performance much like he does in the lead role of 2007’s scarcely-seen dark comedy “Big Fan.”

“Buddy Slade has a life,” Matt says trying to dissuade Mavis from wrecking Buddy’s happy marriage. In that, he’s also suggesting that Mavis needs to get a life of her own, too. There is no epiphany or happy ending in “Young Adult.” Theron embraces her lack of congeniality with a remarkable combination of resentment, hostility, and self-hatred that is both uncomfortable and compelling, especially when the end result is such a colossal train wreck.

Patrick Wilson, Judy Greer, & Chloe Sevigny – Barry Munday (DVD)

December 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the dark independent comedy “Barry Munday,” (released on DVD Dec. 7) actor Patrick Wilson (“Little Children”) plays the title character, a douchebag stuck in the ’90s, who wakes up in the hospital to discover he no longer has testicles. A homely-looking Judy Greer (“13 Going on 30”) chimes in as Ginger, a past lover who swears the baby she is carrying is his. Chloë Sevigny (TV’s “Big Love”) is Ginger’s more attractive sister Jennifer, who bats her eyes at Barry because she can.

“Barry Munday” never hit theaters in San Antonio, but I was able to sit down and talk to the cast for a few mintues last March during the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival.

Chloë, what was it about this movie that made you want to be a part of it?

Chloë Sevigny: I had never been in a straight-up comedy before. It’s something I had wanted to do for a long time, but never really had a lot of opportunities presented to me. I was also a big fan of Judy [Greer] so I just jumped at this opportunity.

Was it easy for you to change gears and get into comedy mode?

CS: It was very challenging and sometimes intimidating especially since these two (Judy Greer and Patrick Wilson) were so funny. Playing the role on “Big Love” on HBO for so long, you get comfortable there. I haven’t been doing a lot of films lately because of scheduling with the show, so being in a movie like this is so terrifying because I’m out of my comfort zone.

Judy, how much input did you have in creating the look of your character. The frizzy hair is pretty wild.

Judy Greer: I think the wardrobe and the glasses were enough. I mean, this girl just really doesn’t care. She wasn’t trying to force this look on herself. It’s just that she didn’t give a shit.

What about you Patrick? I haven’t seen a braided belt in a while.

Patrick Wilson: We just started building on it from the outside in. There were such strong characters on the page. I knew right away when I talked to [director] Chris [D’Arienzo] I knew I needed to wear puka shells and a braided belt. Once we established that he was hanging onto the early 90s – around the time he was in high school and probably the last time he felt cool. Then I sort of based his movements on someone who, when he hit on women, was completely awkward and not smooth. I based him on a couple of people, but I would never say who.

Is that where you got the walk?

PW: Well, the walk came from a couple of things. I knew this guy who would always walk and lead with his chest; sort of like a gorilla. It’s like someone trying to be as manly as he can be and then all of a sudden his manhood is taken away. We were on a time crunch with this movie, so we had to make these decisions and go with it. In the first few days you’re really thinking, “I hope this works.”

Judy, did your look allow you to feel more like your character?

JG: I think you see a lot of times in movies when characters go through a physical change. I just didn’t want it to be about that. I did want my character to fall in love and then say (in a snooty voice), “Now I have to be beautiful because I’m in love.” Barry makes her happy. He doesn’t change who she is. I think the most my makeup artist let me use was some cherry ChapStick.

Patrick, “Barry Munday” and your 2005 thriller “Hard Candy” are totally different films, but did it worry you at all that your genitals were back in the spotlight again?

PW: Well, emasculation is definitely a theme. There is a similarity there, characters are always looking for an arch in what they gain and learn. I’ve done every variety of the emasculated man…even in “Little Children.” I’ve actually been very lucky to get these kinds of characters.

Lakeview Terrace

September 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington
Directed by: Neil LaBute (“The Shape of Things”)
Written by: David Lougher (“Money Train”) and Howard Korder (“The Passion of Ayn Rand”)

When you’re as sought after as an actor like Samuel L. Jackson (he has six feature films out in 2008), it’s only natural to spread yourself a bit thin. It’s unfortunate in “Lakeview Terrace” that Jackson, who could possibly be at his most diluted of the year, connects with a director on a steady decline.

Neil LaBute, who looked like he could be the next big filmmaker back in the late 90s with his dark comedies “In the Company of Men” and “Your Friends and Neighbors,” seems to have slipped into a cinematic coma.  If 2006’s “Wicker Man” wasn’t enough evidence that LaBute had lost his way, “Lakeview Terrace” is a sad reminder that he is captain of a sinking ship.

In “Lakeview,” interracial husband and wife Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington) Mattson move into a new neighborhood and are dumbfounded when they find out their next door neighbor, Abel Turner, an LAPD officer and overprotective father of two, lets them know that he doesn’t want them living there.

The script might have us believe that it’s not known whether Abel is turned off by an interracial couple living next door to him or if he just misses his deceased wife and can’t stand the idea of a happy couple making love in their swimming pool in plain sight. Either way, Abel is chock full of politically incorrect opinions that make his run ins with his new neighbors very awkward.

Soon, mere uncomfortable moments evolve into attempts by Abel to do anything he can (including using his influence as a cop) to get Chris and Lisa to pack up and leave. It starts off as annoyances with floodlights and sarcastic comments, but Abel has a nasty side and, with a badge protecting him, he’s not afraid to show it.

Where the screenplay lacks terribly is in rhyme and reason.  Are we supposed to believe that Abel is so inundated with hatred for his neighbors he can act out in these threatening manners? The motivation behind his actions is not as clear and Jackson’s character is left floating around with nothing more than a scowl on his disapproving face.

Screenwriters David Lougher and Howard Korder hint to us that Abel’s not actually a bigot. He has an Asian neighbor he talks to and a Hispanic LAPD partner (Jay Hernandez) that keeps him company on the streets. So, why does he lose his cool? Who knows, but the intensity of the neighborhood rivalry never reaches a boiling point like Ray Liotta did in 1992’s “Unlawful Entry,” which is basically the same story without the racist angle.

Here, LaBute plays it safe and turns racial tension into a sort of name calling-game on the playground. While we should loathe a character like Abel – or at least what he stands for – there’s nothing in the film’s arsenal to make us feel he’s anything more than a petty nuisance.