Cabin in the Woods

I was very excited to see this because I am a huge Joss Whedon fan.

Unfortunately, this movie didn’t live up to the hype for me. It was an interesting premise (a group basically sets up a horror movie-type premise for five unsuspecting college-age kids) but it wasn’t scary or even all that clever.

The cast is really good—Bradley Whitford and Richard Jennings in the group, Avery Johnson in the victims group, plus the best cameo since Zombieland.

I think the best horror movies don’t try to be clever at the expense of scares. Originality is great but it’s even better to actually scare people. This movie wasn’t either and I expected so much more from Joss Whedon.

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Insidious

Insidious seems at first like your typical haunted house story.  Couple with three young children move into a new home and weird things start to happen—whispers over the baby monitor, strange noises, things not where they should be, etc.

But then the son mysteriously falls into a coma—and there’s no possible medical reason for it.  And even after the family moves to a new house, the weird things continue.  In fact, they’re getting worse.

And there’s a good reason for that: their son (the one in the coma) is the one haunted, not the house.

I loved this movie.  It’s uber-scary, then takes a turn for the completely ridiculous (astral projection) and then gets scary again.  Part of it is because there’s a fantastic cast (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey—and Lin Shaye, who was the English teacher in the original Nightmare on Elm Street) and part of it is because you can tell that James Wan loves scary movies and he wanted to make a good one, not necessarily just a profitable one.

This is such a fun and creepy movie.

The Hours

Nicole Kidman won an Academy Award for this, but I think Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep both did a far better job.  Which is not to say that Nicole Kidman was horrible, but if you’re in a movie wither either of them, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be outclassed.  And both?  Yes, you’re pretty much guaranteed to not be the best.  Or second best.

Anyway.  This is a depressing as all hell movie but at the same time a really, really good one.  It’s set in three different time periods—the ’20s (with Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf), the ’50s (with Julianne Moore as Laura Brown) and the early 2000’s (with Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan).  Mrs. Dalloway is a recurring theme through the movie—Virginia Woolf is writing it, Laura Brown is reading it and Clarissa Vaughan is inadvertantly living it.  I read Mrs. Dalloway right after seeing the movie for the first time (right after it came out on DVD) but I don’t remember anything about it.

I think it was Thoreau (or Emerson; I always get them mixed up) who said that we live lives of quiet desperation.  That is definitely true in this movie.  Everyone is miserable and suicide is a recurring theme.  (It’s no spoiler to say that Virginia Woolf kills herself, and we see it in the beginning of the movie; I won’t go further into Laura and Clarissa’s lives because that WOULD be a spoiler.)

This is such an amazing movie and I need to start watching it more often than once a decade.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies picks.  It’s also one of their 10 Best Courtroom Dramas (the actual best).

I re-read the book earlier this year for book club (one of my fellow members hadn’t read it) and it was just as wonderful as I remembered.  I saw this movie well before I read the book (I was in advanced English the year the AP kids read it and AP the year the advanced English class read it in high school) but when I finally did read it, we fell in love.

The book (and movie) combine two of my favorite things: coming-of-age narrative and courtroom dramas.  It’s set in the south and deals with all these hard issues but through the eyes of a child (so in that way, similar to Emma Donoghue’s Room—but even better).

And the movie has the added bonus of starring Gregory Peck who is, I believe, one of the best actors ever.

If you haven’t read or seen this, do so.  NOW.  You will be so happy you did.

Jaws

I just finished watching Jaws for probably the sixth or seventh time.  It’s one of my favorite movies and I think it’s held up very well.

I’m not sure why I love it so much.  Part of it is that it’s very scary but most of it is that it’s just a good movie.  (And I do appreciate very good movies.)  Quint’s speech about the shark that killed his crew gives me chills, no matter how many times I’ve heard it before. 

It was just released on Blu-Ray for the first time and if you have a Blu-Ray player, you definitely need to upgrade for this movie.  It felt like a totally new movie—it was very pretty.

And, as Entertainment Weekly noted, the blood is very red.

I’m sorry that Bekki didn’t love it, but that’s okay.  I love it enough for both of us, and I’m pretty sure Jenny loves it enough for an entire city of people. 😉

Contact

Contact was Steve’s pick for Literary Adaptations month.  I had seen it before, but not since I saw it in the theater (which was, what, almost 20 years ago?)

I remembered liking it, but I didn’t remember much about it.  Imagine my supreme delight to remember that it was a dead dad movie.  (Thanks for that, Steve.)

There are so many facets to this movie—science vs. religion, the similar argument of logic vs. faith, the question of whether or not we’re alone in the universe—but really? Dead dad movie.

In terms of cinematography, Contact has completely gorgeous scenes.  (It reminded me of Tree of Life, actually, in that some of the scenes are just absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.)  And the acting is top-notch.  (Obviously, since Jodie Foster carries the movie.  But Jena Malone, who plays the younger version of Foster’s character Ellie, is also very good.  There’s also Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, Angela Bassett and, God love him, Bill Clinton as “the president.”)

This is an incredibly good movie, one that has flown under a lot of radars.  I haven’t read the book that the movie is based on (and probably am not going to) but the movie is definitely worth watching.

North By Northwest

I kind of hate myself for not having seen this before.  This movie was AMAZING.

Cary Grant plays the typical Cary Grant character—suave and ridiculously good looking.  He is mistaken for someone else and his life goes downhill from there. 

During our discussion of Marnie, Jenny pointed out that relationships in Hitchcock movies start super fast.  I hadn’t noticed that before but that is incredibly true in this movie.  They meet and sparks fly and it’s basically HARDCORE LOVE.  Except that it’s ALSO a Hitchcock movie, so the lady’s got some secrets.  (I’m pretty sure that in every Hitchcock movie, someone has some secrets.  Or multiple someones.)

This movie is ridiculously fun and may have just surpassed Psycho as my favorite Hitchcock.  (My top three are this, Rear Window and Psycho…I guess the order doesn’t REALLY matter.)

Rebecca

I’d read the book, and the movie follows the book pretty faithfully.  (I think—I read the book a couple years ago, but I didn’t have any moment during the movie where it was like, “Wait, THAT didn’t happen in the book.”)

The book and movie center around a young woman, an orphan, who is a paid companion (about the best work she can have, given her station in life).  She meets Maxim de Winter, a fairly attractive widower and they get married after a relationship that redefines “whirlwind courtship.”  Maxim’s very wealthy and so she goes from having nothing at all to living in a house that has servants and lets you say things like, “Yes, we are living in the east wing.”

Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, was universally beloved and so the new wife has to figure out how to make her own way in the house while coming out of Rebecca’s shadow.

For me, the worst thing about the book and the movie is that we never learn the name of the second Mrs. de Winter.  (Which is sort of the point, I guess; she is a little bit generic.)

The movie is creepy, especially once we start to spend time with the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.  She is usually called “Danny,” so you may think that she’s friendly and informal.  You would be wrong. 

Very fun movie although it isn’t a very Hitchcock movie.

Torn Curtain

Paul Newman is a scientist and defector to Germany (…or IS HE?!) and Julie Andrews is his fiancee who’s along for the ride. 

I hadn’t seen this before and was very happily surprised at how fun it is.  Although whenever I think of Julie Andrews, I think of Maria, of course, and she is sort of the anti-Maria here.

Paul Newman is young and impossibly gorgeous, and this is I think only the second movie of his I’ve seen (the other being Cool Hand Luke). 

I really enjoyed this film and I think it’s my favorite of the ones we’ve seen for Flick Buddies so far.  (Although since I have Rebecca and North by Northwest still to go, that is likely to change.)

Marnie

This was a weird, weird movie.

It’s got Tippi Hedren as the Hitchcock Blonde (IMO, the best Hitchcock Blonde is Grace Kelly) and Sean Connery as the…well, there’s no term for that, is there? Dashing Man Who Cannot Be Trusted?

Anyway. So Tippi Hedren is the title character. Marnie is a thief who hates (a) the color red (b) men and (c) thunderstorms. She eventually goes to work for Sean Connery (with the intent of ripping him off, too). He is totally onto her and eventually blackmails her into marrying him. And then it gets even weirder.

This is not one of Hitchcock’s best films and frankly is made all the worse by Tippi’s mom’s Baltimore accent. (SERIOUSLY?! We don’t sound anything like that, hon!)