October 2013 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

35 Years of Halloween

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AndrewCommentaryBannerShortOn a cold night 35 years ago my mother and aunt went out to the theaters to watch John Carpenter's Halloween.  That night, they were so terrified leaving the theater that they had to keep the lights in the car turned on for the ride home, and then kept that same electricity burning the whole night while they stared at the door in terror.

When my mom told me about her reaction to Halloween years later, I laughed.  How in the world could she be scared of something so silly as a man in a white mask?  Then, two years after she told me about her long night, I watched Halloween with some friends and discovered that the cycle of fear, just like violence in the Myers family, is passed on to each generation.

This year, in honor of its 35th anniversary, I decided to go back to the beginning and watch every film in the Halloween series.  This meant revisiting the shakes I can never control watching the original film, giving a second glance to the remake I hated, and finally watching some maligned oddities of the series that I didn't have the time to.

After two very long days, and a pair of restless nights, I completed this retrospective of the series.  It was more insightful, and fun, then I ever expected from a genre I unfairly dismissed years ago.  For those who still doubt, or anyone who's shared in the chills, click ahead and find out  how much insomnia these films cause.

Just let me put my game face on and let's get started.

Andrew Myers

The Primer

One Long Night in IllinoisOne Long Night In Illinois

The Ugly DucklingBanner III

Mysticism and MadnessSix

Michael Myers Gets a Hair StylistStylists

Sympathy for the DevilSympathy

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Captain Phillips (2013)

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Eyes on the prizeRyan // LIKE BannerIt takes a special kind of director and movie to make a true life story that everyone knows how it ends a two-hour tension filled experience.  I remember not breathing for moments in Argo and even though I knew Hitler didn’t die I was rooting for the team in Valkyrie and now I can add the feeling of claustrophobia during the last half of Captain Phillips to that list.

Captain Phillips tells the true-life story of the Maersk Alabama, an American cargo ship that was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009.  After taking control of the ship, four pirates kidnap the captain of the ship in the lifeboat and try to ransom him off while the navy works on getting back the hostage safely.

This story is already crafted to be a nail-biting experience with armed pirates, no rescue in sight and a small contained space that looks more and more like a person’s tomb the longer the standoff goes.  Yet, with Paul Greengrass (United 93, Bourne Supremacy) at the helm the movie is blasted off into another level of tension.  Much like Gravity, the movie shoots out with little time for world building.  We have a moment or two of the Phillips (Tom Hanks) with his wife before we meet the pirates and then the crew of the Alabama.  Not long after the boat is out in the water Phillips sees two blips on his radar coming up fast.


The Conjuring (2013)

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The shining endAndrew LIKE BannerWhile I was deep into the scares of The Conjuring, I found myself making correlations between the creative input of director James Wan and his horror / thriller contemporary Darren Aronofsky.  Both have a unique vision and refuse to be pigeonholed into the genres that marked their success.  Yet, both have had a way of working around those limitations to produce exceptional works.  Wan said that he does not want to work in horror forever and move on to different stories, much like Aronofsky said he wanted to eventually work in mainstream film.  To the gratitude of cinemaphiles worldwide, Wan continues to provide excellent scares, much like Aronofsky has taken difficult subjects and made them mainstream.

The Conjuring is not as refreshing as Wan's excellent 2010 film, Insidious, but Wan continues to mark unique territory for himself in modern horror.  While the genre has given itself over primarily to found-footage with extremely diminishing returns, Wan finds inspiration in the confident styles of horror films from the past.  His films have found that precious balance between campy and creepy by providing his lens a point of view that takes the threat seriously, instead of catering to the post-Scream self-reference crowd that treats horror like a joke.


The Internship (2013)

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Here's a thingAndrew DISLIKE BannerWatching The Internship, it's hard for me to realize that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn have only co-starred in one film together - 2005's The Wedding Crashers.  They've both been omnipresent forces in a lot of films I've enjoyed over the years, and others that I've barely tolerated.  But something about their respective style's, Wilson's soft delivery of observational humor and Vaughn's brash torrent of seeming free-associated dialogue, worked very well together.  It seemed like the perfect match before.

Now, it feels tired.  It's been eight years since The Wedding Crashers came out and the two have settled into careers of comedy and drama with different levels of success.  The Internship is a blatant ploy to recapture the essence of their partnership yet again, even though it's in the form of cynical product placement.  Wilson, who has always been on the verge of melancholy with his characters, has never seemed more tired.  Vaughn, while still able to get those words out in the same rapid-fire delivery, is also straining at the speed of the dialogue.

We see the same thing with our action stars, though their attempts at recapturing their former glory can be enhanced both medically and with computers.  With comedy, it's almost impossible to retread old ground with the same set-ups and deliveries.  These are two people who would be better off exploring new venues as they age, not trying to recreate the R-rated comedic glory of nearly a decade ago.


Andrei Tarkovsky: The Sacrifice (1986)

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"Этот фильм посвящается моему сыну Andriosha с надеждой и уверенностью."

An aging critic (Erland Josephson) tries to find meaning through release and destruction in Andrei Tarkovsky's final film, The Sacrifice.

LonelyAndrewCommentaryBannerI have the same problem with The Sacrifice that I did with Nostalghia last week.  Both are works that bear the signs of Tarkovsky's advancing age and disease, with characters obsessed with answers and their looming end.  They're also packed with reflection, dialogue that deals with stories and parable of their past and the fictions that mattered most to them.  In The Sacrifice the importance of fiction bleeds into the setting as Tarkovsky films on the island home of Ingmar Bergman, and makes use of Bergman's long-time cinematographer Sven Nykvist.

Even with those details this film is unquestionably a Tarkvosky project.  Never have his characters seemed so lost than the way they do on this island.  He films almost all the outdoor scenes in an extreme long-shot, letting us take in the nearly inconsequential way their presence on the island affect its landscape.  Even inside, Tarkovsky's lens flattens the inhabitants, making them seem gaunt and unsubstantial, like at any time they could float away.

The moments when The Sacrifice threatens to take blow these gaunt figures away that the film becomes vital.  It's during the dream sequences, when Alexander stumbles around the giant house, and finds that the way forward is never as easy as it seems.  One stunning shot shows Alexander approaching a hallway that leads outdoors with lush vegetation, only to have Alexander's shadow suddenly envelop the view as we see that it is merely a tapestry that leads to more darkness.  Another unexpected road block that gave me a quick chill is when Alexander is having a nightmare and when he tries to find shelter finds that the only door to safety has been blocked off by brick.

These are images that scream of spiritual anguish, of a beautiful path forward that is forever an illusion.  But as great as these scenes are, I still found the film a bit lacking because Tarkovsky lets the Bergman overwhelm the fabric of the film.  This doesn't necessarily make it a failure, and there are still those powerful moments, but I caught myself more playing "Catch the Bergman reference" than anything else.  The newscast warning of apocalypse could have been dropped into Shame, the tree that they plant and return to from the beginning seemed lifted from The Virgin Spring, and there are the many painful reflections that would have been at home in Cries and Whispers.

I hesitate to say any of this is bad, but I was expecting a Tarkovsky film to close out his career, not a Bergman film in contemplative long shot.  Erland Josephson is a splendid actor, and made for a nervy presence in Nostalghia, but here he felt like he was trying to channel the intense introspection of Max von Sydow.  It's a film of masters pretending to someone else's work, and the cumulative effect is a bit off-putting.  At the same time, for someone as unyieldingly positive in his spirituality as Tarkovsky was, it also seems fitting that he would do a film that closes out his life that pays tribute to the one who inspired him the most.

That's it for his feature films Kyle, and next week is a documentary.  How did you feel this film closed out his life?