Horror movies have reigned supreme in my family since before the march on Selma, Alabama described in this week’s best cinematic outing down below. It’s safe for me to say that the genre is quite probably my favourite. Even when cinemas were prohibited by my folks in my early childhood to adolescent years of the Eighties to early-Nineties, I remember many a night spent on my parents’ huge California king-size watching classic horror cinema fests on a loop. Popcorn and iced tea would flow and mom and dad would scratch my back (and my twin brother’s) till we passed out before the third flick commenced.
In that vein, I’ll start with this week’s horror release, Oculus. This tale of horror is recounted through flashbacks and one giant-ass mirror. Actually, the film's direct complement and less than obvious title reference is that huge, antique mirror. The plot revolves around a brother and sister duo and their simultaneous lives during and after their escape from the murder-suicide of their family by their father in 2002. After the release of brother Tim from a mental hospital where he has been in treatment since their parents’ death, elder sister Kaylie finds herself in experiment mode back in their home where it all happened, hell-bent on discovering the secret behind their father’s descent into murderous madness, convinced it has something to do with that (damn!) mirror. The male lead, Brenton Thwaites, is an Australian up-and-comer who is apparently set to film a role in the never-ending cliché series called Pirates of the Caribbean, which has seemingly zapped Depp’s once oozing juices. Big sister Kaylie is played by Karen Gillan another up-and-comer, this time from the British Isles, who made her biggest splash this past summer as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy. Try as they might, they have a somewhat weak script to follow with a plot and premise that starts strong but then tries too hard and by the end is practically flat lining before the protagonist does. Oh hell, did I just give that away?! ##
In other limited release news…and I kid you not, a film entitled Zombeavers is also having a shot on the silver screen this weekend, but because I love you, here’s a link that might make some horror freaks happy to see this well-acted nonsense.
And onwards then…there was a solemn sense of love’s labour lost that somewhat saddened me whilst watching Paul Haggis’ latest ensemble piece, Third Person. He of Oscar-winning classics Million Dollar Baby and Crash (as producer and director respectively, though he did write both), as well as, the writing hand that helmed the Bond films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, has really and truly turned in a piece of lackluster celluloid this time around. Granted, he also gave us Terminator Salvation, so you win some, you lose some, but…well, let’s start at the beginning. A premise. It goes without saying that interweaving a large cast of characters is something Haggis likes to do, and when he throws in NYC, Paris and Rome as location extras PLUS the woven thread connecting these great actors, one thinks…Success! Alas, one would be wrong. Liam Neeson and his love triangle between Olivia Wilde and Kim Basinger is rather intriguing on a reality level, but the Rome story with “The Nose” Brody and the NYC train wreck of a love story with James Franco and Mila Kunis is heart-wrenching and drip slow, like this film. Shame shame shame. #-1/2
Be not faint of heart, dear ones. The Mad Hatter I call David Cronenberg brings us his latest in a wider European release this weekend, and this film is the first of my Must Sees for this weekend. Never one to shy away from the macabre or the profound, he sneakily has returned to fine and dark (if absolutely comedic!) form and frankly, anything that shines the spotlight on the ill-side (read:most anything) of L.A./H’wood, especially as headily as Cronenberg does here, is a winner and I’m sold.
Maps to the Stars is another ensemble piece that stars goddess Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, Selma Blair, John Cusack amongst an array of others in another blended lives tale, this one extremely satirical. But where Haggis may need another lesson in storytelling with filmmaking, Cronenberg seamlessly weaves the saddest and funniest of stories by going where a story like this must go—into the characters’ psyche...and then into ours as the audience. That clever bastard! I have to say “screw-off!” to Moore winning an Oscar for Still bloody Alice, and yet not even a glance sideways for this stellar work of her ensemble oeuvre? I thinketh not. I will never hear this song the same way again—Go ahead…dance for a second.
Good Lord. It’s never my way to reveal too much of the plot but what we’re dealing with here is the rarely-ending tendency of human nature to live a lie and put so much effort into doing so until finally the brink of insanity, depression or death comes acalling. Cronenberg has added another masterpiece to his filmography and everyone’s reaction to this film will be different. That is a great thing. ####
Finally, like a sappy if sweet Nineties hit by a former Miss America/Playboy cover-girl, I’ve saved the best for last. The slogan above the title on the poster reads ONE DREAM CAN CHANGE THE WORLD. There is so much more work for us to do, but when cinema like Selma graces the big screen, mountains can start to be moved. This is a movie that every child who studies US-American history, or any civil rights case study for that matter, should be required to see. It is that poignant and moving, and especially with the racial tensions igniting here in Europe and across the pond recently, the need for this history being told cannot be overstressed.
Simply put, Selma refers to the town in Alabama that eventually led to the US federal mandate which equated all US-American people and gave all the same rights in voting and frankly, in everything. The film commences as Martin Luther King Jr. is receiving the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and then the story quickly sprawls out across the country between the northeast in D.C. and down south in the dirty dirty. When the illegal denial of registering blacks, and I dare say any person of colour, for natural voting privileges is brought to President Johnson’s attention by King, it is here where the film really nosedives into the reality of what pressures King must have felt. In a way, it’s his humanity that saves him, and like the other stellar piece of cinema opening this weekend, the film is such a powerful winner because it delves into the psyche and truth behind the men (namely, King portrayed amazingly by Brit David Oyelowo and President LB Johnson, portrayed by another Brit, Tom Wilkinson.)
As you watch the film do not be surprised, even if you retain the stiffest of patrician facades and hardened souls, if you feel a range of emotions and are moved to tears. Let them flow. In fact, please feel free to write any comments of how you perceived the film down below. ####
An outro to listen to… Kids, take it from me…I love you. See you soon!