"The phenomena are there, really there! That’s why I say, either you know or you don’t know spirit phenomena exist. If you don’t know, go investigate the findings yourself, but don’t tell me you don’t believe in spirits." — Ed Warren
Greetings from the apocalypse! Well "Pacific Rim" came and is on its way to "went," but I loved it just the same. Of this week's many new releases only one truly stands out, and it’s the lowest-budget one of the bunch. Prepare to pee yourself as Patrick Wilson uses the power of Christ to compel you towards "The Conjuring."
Friday, July 19
POW! IN THEATERS
This week's muchas recomendado Survivor of Thunderdome is "The Conjuring," and for a damn good reason. Director James Wan follows up his success with "Insidious" with an even more old-fashioned ghost yarn based on true events that rocked a Rhode Island family. The Perrons (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) move into an isolated farmhouse that should be more than enough for their five precocious daughters, but when a ghostly presence makes itself known they find themselves frightened for their lives. They call in the original ghost busters, Ed and Lorraine Warren (the fantastically paired Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who use their years of experience exorcising spooks to clear the house of a SERIOUSLY malevolent entity. This is stripped-down, back-to-basics nightmare fuel in the same spirit of '70s classics such as "Burnt Offerings" and "The Amityville Horror."
The Warrens may seem like something James Wan would have made up, but they're for realsimo. I had the pleasure of meeting psychically-inclined Lorraine during her press rounds for the film, and she's just as sweet and gentle as Farmiga portrays her to be. Whether you believe in all this paranormal malarkey is inconsequential to how bloody fascinating and mysterious her investigations with late husband Ed were, and you can see both of them discussing some essential ghost hunting 101 s**t in the clearly made for public access "Ed and Lorraine Warren: What To Do When You See A Ghost." Watch it via YouTube below:
Screw San Diego Comic-Con! True genre fans should fly their asses out to Canada for Fantasia Fest in Montreal, which kicks off this weekend through August 6 hoping to blaze a trail of guerilla filmmaking at its finest. The lineup includes a doc on John Waters' overweight muse "I Am Divine," a live-action version of Japanese anime "Gatchaman," The "Star Wars" memoir "5/25/77," a crazy-looking Ed Harris western "Sweetwater" and even "Curse of Chucky." There will also be festival appearances by Edgar Wright and Nick Frost for "The World's End," Bobcat Goldthwait for "Willow Creek," Jason Voorhees actor Kane Hodder for "Hatchet III" and an X-citing evening with Bryan Singer.
PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
Ah, how the mighty have fallen. After she won an Academy Award for Woody Allen's "Mighty Aphrodite" Mira Sorvino was a hot commodity until she was undone, ironically enough, by Guillermo del Toro. "Thanks a lot, 'Mimic'! Last time I capitalize on an Oscar with a giant cockroach movie." Now she's resigned to low-budget genre fare like "The Presence" on Cinemax at 4:45 p.m. The trailer advertises "From one of the creators of 'The Blair Witch Project'" to give it just a little more pedigree, but for those looking for some more old-school horror thrills after "The Conjuring" this haunted cabin in the woods thriller could be just the ticket.
Saturday July 20
YOU DOWN WITH VOD?
As a certified Nicolas Winding Refn junkie I could not be more excited about "Only God Forgives," his re-teaming with Ryan Gosling after they blitzkrieged the screen with cool bombs with "Drive." Set in the neon-lit Bangkok underworld, Gosling plays a Muay Thai-enhanced criminal who goes up against a violent corrupt cop (Vithaya Pansringarm) to avenge the death of his brother. Fudged morality and hints of incest are just some of the reasons it's getting lousy reviews but make me want to see it all the more. It drops in limited release and on VOD, so you can wallow in its ethical lapses in the privacy of your own home.
Gosling slaughters a lot of people in "Only God Forgives," which is ironic since he doesn't kill anyone in "The Slaughter Rule," one of his earliest gigs. Gosling plays a small-town Montana kid named Roy whose life takes an aimless path after his father dies. When an eccentric football coach named Gideon (David Morse) asks Roy to join a team, the boy gets his confidence back … but does Gideon want to be more than a mentor to him? You can watch it in its entirety below, via HULU fo free, yo:
NEW ON BLU
Went to see "Pacific Rim" again this week and enjoyed it way way more the second time through by just gorging myself on the neverending supply of eye candy. I will deliberately seek out the Japanese dub when it hits DVD. Jonesing for another mech sugar high? Got the hook up right here: A new "Robotech" collection of two feature films, "Love Live Alive" and its sequel "The Shadow Chronicles." "New on Blu" is a bit of a misnomer since this is strictly a DVD release, and though "Love Live Alive" is billed as a new movie it's actually cobbled together from bits of '80s anime series "Genesis Climber MOSPEADA." Led by lead hero Scott Bernard, robot pilots including treacherous generals, cantankerous old coots, cute kids and indigo-haired androgynous lady boys all band together to fight the Invid, an alien species bent on mining the Earth of Protoculture (apparently not the stuff they make yogurt with). The '80s-era herky jerky animation on "Love Live Alive" is charming compared to the slicker/soulless look of "The Shadow Chronicles," and unintentionally hilarious moments abound: "So this place was called Denver!" says Scott while standing amid the most Japanese-looking city I've ever seen. Still, jets turn into robots and aliens explode, what more do you want? Rock n' roll.
Sunday, July 21
POW! IN THEATERS
This weekend is something of an anomaly since we're getting two big action blockbusters co-starring the delightful Mary-Louise Parker: "RED 2" and "R.I.P.D." "RED 2" I did see, and it's a mostly harmless piece of action fluffery that is every bit as up-to-par as the first one, with Bruce Willis going through the motions, Lee Byung-hun kicking copious ass and John Malkovich stealing the show, as usual. A great movie to take grandma and grandpa to. "R.I.P.D." I also saw waaaaaay back in 1997 when it was called "Men In Black," so I didn't really feel like it was all that necessary to catch it again just because they recast it with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds. Don't expect either film to set the world on fire.
BASIC CABLE BLUES
There's really no need to catch up on anything, but if you're a stickler for continuity then be sure to keep your eyeballs glued to 2010's original "RED" at 8 p.m. on TNT. ("Retired and Extremely Dangerous" for the layman.) Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a former black-ops CIA agent specialized in wetwork, i.e. assassinations, who is targeted for termination and has to gather together other retirees in order to get to the bottom of this plot. His League of Extraordinary Older Gentlemen includes John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren.
NETFLIX RECOMMENDS WITH A VENGEANCE
Since "R.I.P.D." will likely go down as one of Bridges' biggest box office turkeys, let's celebrate by pulling out his grandest folly ever: "Heaven's Gate," now available on Netflix Streaming. Hot off of his triumph with "The Deer Hunter," director Michael Cimino went apes**t and broke the bank (a.k.a. United Artists) with this massively over-budget revisionist western that's as cinematically gorgeous as it is unpleasant. It's a downbeat tale of a Harvard-educated lawman (Kris Kristofferson at his manliest) who tries to stop an assembly of bloodthirsty cattle barons from slaughtering hundreds of poor European immigrants. This is famous as the movie that destroyed United Artists and Cimino's reputation (the Altamont of the film brat generation), but for all its four-hour-long excesses (including a roller skating scene that seems to go on for at least half that time) it's an undeniable visual landmark.
Despite bad buzz, The Dude still abides as Jeff Bridges sits down with the Energizer Bunny of hosts, Chris Hardwick, for another amiable installment of "The Nerdist Podcast." Bridges and Hardwick shoot the breeze on topics ranging from his first on-screen performance as a six-month-old baby, longevity in show biz and, of course, bowling.
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …