Posts Tagged ‘paranormal activity

06
Jan
10

Top Ten Movies of 2009

What a year it has been for movies. From a film for fanboys (“Watchmen”) to a teeny-bopper supernatural romance (“New Moon”), from a Jarhead visiting a world of blue people (“Avatar”) to ugly aliens visiting our own (“District 9”), from man’s continuing struggle to against the machine (“Terminator Salvation”) to the machines having taken over and a scientist’s soul divided into mini-creations trying to survive (“9”), from the return of 80’s cartoons as live action (“G.I. Joe”) to the return of 80’s horror (“The Stepfather”) and everything in between (there were TWO movies about mall security cops), it truly has been a year.

As far as film goes and in my own opinion it’s been a tough year. One can blame the economic recession/depression for monetary aspects, but it’s been an overall success for the Industry for the year. This year was more about the aftermath of the 2007-2008 writers strike than any other single factor.

It was difficult making this year’s list because the overall feeling from watching movies this year was “meh.” I enjoyed quite a few movies, but the indies seemed to have peaked the year that “No Country for Old Men” saw release and the blockbusters haven’t held the caliber of “Iron Man” (although “G.I. Joe” was more fun than “Transformers 2”) Another problem with constructing the list was that three of my favorite films I saw this year (“Frost/Nixon,” ‘The Wrestler,” “Gran Torino”) were limited release 2008 in cities such as NY and LA and therefore had to be struck from the list.

Here, in order of release/when I viewed them, are my Top Ten movies of 2009 and my thoughts:

“Star Trek” – “Alias” and “Lost” creator JJ Abrams was given the keys to Kirk and Company and made a fun and enjoyable movie that was truly a reason to go to the movie theatre. Chris Pine channeled a bit of Shatner while Zach Quinto did a spot-on Spock. Some have called it “Star Trek for Star Wars fans” and that may have a bit of truth to it, but it doesn’t take away from being a solid, enjoyable film.

“Up” – If this year had a theme it would be “films that other people thought shouldn’t work but did.” “Up” was being crucified before it got to the theatres. I saw an article where “Wall Street” experts were predicting it as a failure for Pixar. The result? A heartfelt, beautifully colored solid story about a former balloon salesman uprooting his house for the ultimate adventure of his life taking along a stowaway who needs a father figure. It may not have the technology of “Avatar” but the story was original and solid and Pixar up’d their technology work with the brilliance of their color palette.

“The Hangover” – A movie I probably would not have watched had it not been for the free screening. The initial WB test screening went so well they ordered a sequel, which I had never heard of happening before. My brother and I went to a PACKED screening at the Commerce Crossings theatre two weeks in advance. Walking out of the movie my brother gave it the best endorsement I’ve ever heard for a movie: “I would pay to see that again.” So would I.

“District 9” – Following “Moon,” (which gets Honorable Mention) director Neil Blomkamp took racial prejudice in South Africa and changed it to alienation of aliens. Shot on a limited budget and handheld/doc-style, it was an innovative sci-fi film and one that should raise the bar for doing science fiction films.

“Inglourious Basterds” – Tarantino threw everything but the blender into this one: a hodge-podge of war films, exploitation, film geekness, and World War II. This film ran the risk of being exclusively for those who love films and/or Tarantino and while that concept may seem to be running on fumes, and trust me it has its faults, overall it tied together at the end. It’s not “Kill Bill” or “Pulp Fiction,” but it’s a worthwhile addition to the Tarantino catalog.

“Capitalism: A Love Story” – One of the most personal of Michael Moore’s films and his best since, “Bowling for Columbine.” It got snubbed for next year’s Academy Awards and that just goes to show Californians DO love their money…

“Paranormal Activity” – Most likened to being this decade “Blair Witch,” this really IS the little movie that could. Done for $15,000 and shot in one location this preyed on those times when you sit in a house, alone, and hear the creaking of the floors, strange noises, etc. This is a film that works best on people who have imaginations, as opposed to those who enjoy the “idiotic group of college teenagers going out to an abandoned shack” formula. I caught a late showing on a Tuesday night and couldn’t get the final scene outta my head. On DVD next week!

“The Blind Side” – So I had to put another “heartwarming” movie on the list. It wasn’t groundbreaking and you could tell the smarminess from the get-go, but I enjoyed the film. Not everything I watch has to be earth-shattering or socially conscious; sometimes it’s nice to fit in an “uplifting” movie.

“Me and Orson Welles” – Charming, amusing movie rooted in its when and where. I am not a big fan of Orson Welles as a person or his personality, but Christian McKay did such a spot-on job with playing Orson Welles it’s uncanny. It was great speaking with Ed Hart about this one; it truly deserves to be recognized. I wish it luck.

“Avatar” – I initially thought against putting this in the Top Ten but Cameron’s attention to detail and use of 3-D technology make this one to be seen. It’s not a great story; in fact, you’ve already seen it as “Dune,” “Dances with Wolves,” etc. The attention to detail and world of Pandora that Cameron created are what sets this above the others.

There are others that deserve mention (“Moon,” “Zombieland”) but these were the ten best for the year (that I watched). Feel free to give your comments. Happy holidays and see you at the movies!

Chas Andrews

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12
Nov
09

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity

paranormal_activity

 

 

Quite honestly, the best damn tent-pole movie in a long time.

Starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat. Directed by Oren Peli

It’s gonna be rough trying to sleep tonight.

Before I get much further into the review, let me explain what I said in the first line. “Tent-pole” movies were ones that movie studios bank on to “pay for” all the other flops. Further insight: the Studios’ plan on one movie making the money that twenty movies will lose. The idea actually goes further back to when motion pictures were the “new technology,” and people gathered under tents at fairs and the like, huddled around a screen and watching a train pull up to a station or a cowboy point a gun at the audience and pull the trigger (reportedly several people ran out on this one).

What we have here is an indie horror film that delivers in a way that the previous horror movie, “The Blair Witch” can’t touch and light years away from anything “Cloverfield” could’ve ever hoped to be. Yeah, I said it. I put down my money and watched both; “Blair Witch” was a good campfire “ghost story” movie with an excellent marketing campaign (the webpage alone made you seriously think about the movie) whereas “Cloverfield” was an over-hyped “Godzilla” wannabe. And I’ll say it again: both movies fall short of this one.

Before I go much further if you have any inkling to go see this movie, do so. It’s worth the theater experience. And yes, it’ll scare the crap out of you. And stop reading now.

Still there? Alright. The story involves Katie and Micah (pronounced me-kuh). They live in a condo in San Diego. Micah is a day-trader who, encouraged by weird things happening in their abode, decided to invest in a high-grade prosumer videocamera. His live-in girlfriend Katie isn’t crazy about him buying the camera or even what he wants to use it for: trying to find out if their place is really haunted.

When they call in a psychic (Mark Fredrichs) to give them answers Katie spills the beans on her “haunted” past while Micah remains skeptical, videotaping all the while. The psychic gives them an answer they weren’t expecting: the condo isn’t haunted, but a demon could be plaguing Katie. Micah proposes setting up his videocamera to record their bedroom and what happens during the night, the camera firewired into a laptop and a mic capturing any and all sound.

Following this is the simplicity of horror that escalates: murmuring voices, their bedroom door opening and shutting, a sonic BOOM shaking the condo, and Katie being adversely affected by the ghost. Katie wants to leave but begins to believe that she truly is being the object of a demon’s affections, while Micah wants to continue videotaping and compiling evidence. Each morning Micah reviews the night’s videos and wants to know more while Katie wants it all to end. The demonologist recommended by the psychic is out of town, and the psychic himself doesn’t want to have anything to do with it, so they truly are on their own.

It gets much worse after Night 17. I’m still reeling from the final scene. You won’t see it coming…

With the lackluster return of the slasher flick, or rather the onslaught of horror remakes, I’m picky about what horror films I’ll see. The last few that I liked were “The Mist,” the first “Saw,” the director’s cut of “1408,” and “Session 9.” I can’t remember any other good ones (maybe “Murder Party”). “Paranormal Activity” got right what most current Studio productions got wrong: horror is about simplicity. The demon has a purpose and it will not stop until that purpose has been carried out. It doesn’t need to be explained by a lifetime of pathos or even some weird Nazi science experimentation with the occult. Sometimes the best horror is hearing footsteps and creaks in staircases, lights flickering on and off, unexplained shadows, bedsheets mysteriously moving, and the slow descent into insanity (or possession).

And these guys did it on an estimated budget of $11,000. Last weekend the movie grossed over $9 million. Take that next proposed horror remake.

If you haven’t made up your mind about whether you’re going to see it or not, just get up and go see it. This is the theatrical horror movie experience you’ve been wanting. While it’s fun to watch other people get scared, trust me, you’ll jump out of your seat as well. It really is all about the final scene.

My grade: B+