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“Paranormal Activity 2″ Review

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

When “The Blair Witch Project” was first released at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999, it was predicted to become a classic. Critics across the country were united in its praise. Village Voice critic Michael Atikinson (then still known as Mr. Showbiz) said that it “…might be the scariest movie of all time.” How could anything go wrong?

Well, the answer is that the audiences saw it, and thus, the film met its backlash. Don’t get me wrong. Movies are made for the audiences, and if they don’t like it, that’s obviously saying something. However, the audience’s reaction was a bit too cold and unreasonable for my taste. Once it was released, the only quotes about the film everyone heard anymore were that it was “boring,” “shaky” and “a waste of money.” And that became it’s legacy.

Now, over a decade later, many people’s opinion has not changed, and yet the film’s impact on the world of cinema is unquestionable. Movies like “Open Water,” “Rec,” “Diary of the Dead,” “Cloverfield,” and even “District 9” and “United 93” have all been heavily influenced by this landmark film. Perhaps the most recent and prominent of all of these descendants is, of course, the “Paranormal Activity” features.

I was not so eager to jump on the bandwagon of those who fell in love with the first film. I thought that the characters were as flat as could be. You don’t really care so much whether they live or die, based on their unintelligence and carelessness of their decisions. The story is incredibly repetitive and 80% of the scares simply don’t have the desired effect that a movie like this should deliver.

“Paranormal Activity 2” is a bit of a puzzle, for while it corrects certain mistakes of the original, it goes about creating whole new ones. For sure, the biggest improvement is that the film completely ups the the ante from the first, in character, story and thrills. The story sets its eye on a family of four, including an infant child, automatically creating a bit more sympathy than for a couple of bumbling twenty-somethings. The film also reveals the reasons as to why this demon keeps haunting this particular family. However, this could either be an improvement or a flaw, depending on how you look at it, for it’s exactly the reason that no one knows just what this thing is or what it wants that makes it all the more scary.

One thing is for sure: anyone who felt that the first film did not pack a scary enough punch, rest easy. This film has at least three times the scares and jolts that were found in the previous “Paranormal Activity.” Furniture is thrown, people are tossed and the amount of startling moments is more than satisfying. One such shot, near the midpoint of the film, caused every member of the audience to instantly shit their pants. I lost feeling in my face for a short time after it happened.

Also, in this film, there is a much stronger air regarding a constant fear of death hovering around all of the characters throughout the film, and this is accelerated, especially, when the infant’s life hangs in the balance. And what’s more, instead of just one camera in the bedroom (which actually has become pretty iconic, I have to admit), there are a half dozen littered around the house recording all that happens, not to mention the usual handheld which helps pull together the personal side of the story.

However, just as a stronger following and additional cashflow have helped this movie, they also represent the drop of the second shoe. The film has quite simply become to “Hollywoodized.” The amount of horror film cliches has doubled, and for as many jolts and scares there are, now matter how effective they may be, half of them are pretty cheap. This theory is pretty much defined in a scene I recall when the teenage daughter, left alone with the baby, hears a strange noise outside and must go outside to investigate. With that, the ghost slams the door behind her and locks her out of the house! A-HA!

So, do I recommend this film? Yeah, I guess so. Even if it doesn’t strive for that much, it accomplishes what it’s meant to (scare people) and it does it better than the first one. So if you’re looking forward to an opportunity to lose feeling in your face, this movie is waiting for you, and don’t forget to thank “The Blair Witch Project,” for the experience.

GRADES:           B-           * * * / * * * * *           6.0 / 10.0

 

“Medium Cool” Mini-Review

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment

So, now that this blog has officially been up for nearly a month, one thing that I have learned is that I cannot write a review for every film that I see. It is simply too daunting of a task and I want to write as many posts as I can. Therefore, I will only have full reviews for films that I see in the theater. For all other films that I watch for the first time in the comfort of my own home, I will provide a mini-review of several paragraphs, outlining my likes and dislikes. That will give me a chance to give my opinion and rating of the film without minimizing the amount of films I write about.

I caught the film “Medium Cool,” directed by all-star cinematographer Haskell Wexler, earlier today. Many filmmakers have been accredited with bringing about the so-called “American New Wave” in cinema, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols and Bob Rafelson. However, not many of them truly capture the essence of its French predecessor, using the concept of cinema-verite, as well as Wexler does in this feature.

Haskell Wexler is mostly known for directing various documentaries during the 1960s and 70s and he brings that absolute feeling of reality and historical truth into this semi-narrative film. The movie follows the life of a news cameraman (Robert Forster) during the raging riptide that was 1968, ending during the  explosive 1968 Democratic Convention. Throughout the film, his character asks the question of how far is too far in regard to reporting the violence in human life and his journey takes him to some wonderful and dark places.

This was a film that really paved the way for the docudrama as a genre. It’s shot almost entirely handheld and carries a very realistic tone in both its writing and direction. Certain scenes of the film indubitably shine, in particularly one where Forster’s character ends up interviewing a group of semi-militant African-Americans, nearly against his will. The opening is also quite a stark introduction in which Forster and his audio companion make sure they get all the coverage they need of a fresh car accident before considering to call an ambulance. (featured below)

However, the film gets very much bogged down by the self-importance of its own style, and in doing so, forgets to really tell an interesting story. The film really doesn’t have much of a plot structure, but rather just tries to follow individuals and have that serve as a story. Needless to say, it does not. Yet, if the film’s intention is to carry you away in its whirlwind of reality and historical voyeurism, it certainly does that. “Medium Cool” is impacting and memorable and is certainly a dish of something different, even if viewed in today’s filmmaking climate.

GRADES:           B+           * * * * / * * * * *           8.0 / 10.0