You Should Be Watching: October 4-10

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


The Conjuring

Year: 2013

Director: James Wan

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Shanley Caswell, Kyla Deaver, Hayley McFarland, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Joseph Bishara, Marion Guyot, Morganna Bridgers, Amy Tipton, Zach Pappas, Rose Bachtel, James D. Nelson

What’s October without a horror recommendation? James Wan’s The Conjuring, which launched a whole new horror-verse, is like a big budget version of the wildly popular Paranormal Activity, which set off its own series. Wan draws out a similar trepidation, tension, and terror but with a more fully fleshed out world and mythology. The central characters, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are paranormal investigators and demonologists based loosely on a real life couple and case. They are invited to investigate the paranormal events haunting the Perron family. Ron Livingston plays the father Roger and Lili Taylor his wife Carolyn. They have recently moved into an old farmhouse along with their 5 daughters. They each see, hear, and experience an unexplainable presence, at times seemingly innocent and others expressing frightening malevolence.

In addition to the Warrens’ character development both as individuals and as a couple, this film’s strength builds through its underlying dread, lightened only by the many cuts from night to daytime, representing the passing of another night and a hopeful return to safety until night falls again. There’s an inescapable sense of entrapment as plausible reasons why the family doesn’t move away enhance the dread even more. In a world that wants to pretend nothing exists beyond the physical, The Conjuring exists to remind us that there might just be more to the supernatural world than we realize.


Polytechnique

        

Year: 2009

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Cast: Maxim Gaudette, Sébastien Huberdeau, Karine Vanasse, Evelyne Brochu, Martin Watier, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Natalie Hamel-Roy, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Pierre Leblanc, Francesca Barcenas, Ève Duranceau

Following a nine-year gap after his sophomore effort, the yet unknown Denis Villeneuve directed this masterful and terrifying dramatization of the Montreal Massacre, a 1989 school shooting that based on the emotional weight of this film seems to have had a profound effect on him. It bleeds pain, terror, and sadness. Even at this early stage of his career, the fingerprints of his trademark style are evident–gorgeous, slow-paced cinematography, matching ominous music, mysterious characters, and brooding drama punctuated by intense, realistic violence.

Minimal dialogue means the actors have to show not tell the nightmare they are experiencing or in the case of the killer, enacting. Villeneuve’s tight focus on individual characters in the moment enables the viewer to intimately feel the experience. We are sickened by the evil heart of the shooter, saddened at the hurtful comments one of the female victims receives, and shocked at the sudden cold, brutal, Terminator-like violence of the killer as we reel in disbelief that there is no one to stop him.


Ball of Fire

Year: 1941

Director: Howard Hawks

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Cast: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, S.Z. Sakall, Henry Travers, Oskar Homolka, Tully Marshall, Leonid Kinskey, Richard Haydn, Aubrey Mather, Dana Andrews, Allen Jenkins, Elisha Cook Jr., Aldrich Bowker, Dan Duryea, Ralph Peters, Kathleen Howard, Mary Field, Charles Lane, Charles Arnt 

Not just screwball comedy. Howard Hawks creatively infuses romance and borderline noir drama with major chemistry between Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck who play Professor Bertram Potts and nightclub performer Katherine “Sugarpuss” O’Shea. Stanwyck practically takes the lead as she plays Sugarpuss with cool confidence, largely in control. An air of tension is established with never knowing for sure if her demonstrated feelings for Professor Potts are genuine. She is very convincing no matter what her intentions are. Cooper, while obviously intelligent, is delightfully awkward as Potts, trying to resist Sugarpuss’ advances.

Hawks uses many unique & memorable ideas & visuals, such as Sugarpuss stepping up on the books for some yum-yum, a wet washcloth bit, crazy amounts of obscure slang, Potts talking to Sugarpuss’ “Daddy”, and the whole initial setup of 8 professors living together for a multi-year project to create a definitive encyclopedia. The ending is also really clever as it makes use of the unique characteristics of each of the professors.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

October 5
The Beauty Inside (2015)
The BFG (2016)

October 7
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

October 13
The Babadook (2014)

October 14
Seven Pounds (2008)

October 16
Donnie Darko (2001)

October 21
The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

October 24
Big Eyes (2014)
Queen of Katwe (2016)

October 27
Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

AMAZON PRIME

October 15
The Fits (2016)

October 16
Louder Than Bombs (2016)

FILMSTRUCK

October 5
Infernal Affairs (2002)
The Narrow Margin (1952)
The Thing from Another World (1951)
White Heat (1949)

October 12
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

October 19
Casa de Lava (1994)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

October 26
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Ace in the Hole (1951)
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Footlight Parade (1933)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Guys and Dolls (1955)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Stalag 17 (1953)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Tabu (2012)
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

October 31
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

HULU

October 31
13 Going on 30 (2004)
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Babe (1995)
Barfly (1987)
Bull Durham (1988)
Eight Men Out (1988)
The Elephant Man (1980)
High Noon (1952)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Point Break (1991)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Rescue Dawn (2006)
The Rock (1996)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Sleepers (1996)
Spaceballs (1987)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Unbreakable (2000)
Witness (1985)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

The Green Mile (1999)
Life of Brian (1979)
Black Dynamite (2009)
Blade (1998)
Blade II (2002)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Empire Records (1995)
Hold the Dark (2018)
Mystic River (2003)
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
The Shining (1980)
V for Vendetta (2005)

AMAZON PRIME

Bitter Moon (1992)
Carrie (1976)
Election (1999)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The General (1998)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
House of Usher (1960)
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)
The Illusionist (2006)
Let Me In (2010)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Raging Bull (1980)
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
RoboCop (1987)
Saving Face (2004)
Starship Troopers (1997)
The Strangers (2008)
To Sleep with Anger (1990)
Trees Lounge (1996)
The Untouchables (1987)
Wild Bill (2011)

FILMSTRUCK

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

HULU

American Psycho (2000)
Bitter Moon (1992)
Cinderella Man (2005)
Closer (2004)
Dheepan (2015)
Election (1999)
Frida (2002)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Insomnia (2002)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
The Music Never Stopped (2011)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Others (2001)
Platoon (1986)
[REC] (2007)
Raging Bull (1980)
RBG (2018)
RoboCop (1987)
Starship Troopers (1997)
Trees Lounge (1996)
Wild Bill (2011)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

October 5
Malevolent – NETFLIX FILM (2018)
Private Life – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

October 10
22 July – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

October 6
A Prayer Before Dawn (2017)

October 11
Monster’s Ball (2001)
The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)

HULU

October 6
Lowlife (2017)
Pyewacket (2018)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

MOVIE REVIEW: Insidious: The Last Key

INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY (2018)


GOING IN

The INSIDIOUS series has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. I acknowledge that it isn’t the best horror out there, but I very much enjoy the first two films in this franchise, and due to a strong final act I even don’t mind the third chapter. The concept of The Further and exploring a place where spirits roam while trying to attach themselves to the living is certainly an intriguing one. While James Wan has gone on to make much more masterful horror films in THE CONJURING series, his ability to create atmospheric dread made the series one I could stomach more than the blood and gore pictures in this genre. Admittedly, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 was a letdown and Wan’s absence was felt as co-creator Leigh Whannell took over directing duties. Now director Adam Robitel is attached for yet another Lin Shaye led sequel. It’s not unheard for little known horror directors to surprise with a good film, but it is rare that fourth entries in a horror franchise ever live up to their original material. I’m going into this one with pretty low expectations and hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

1 Hour and 43 Minutes Later.


COMING OUT

 

INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY begins with a flashback to a young Elise (series star Lin Shaye) living in her home on a prison campus. This insight into her childhood family dynamic and living situation immediately sets the stage for what will be her most personal haunting experience yet, when she returns to this childhood home much later in life to face off against a sinister demon. The details behind this particular occurrence are fairly dark in nature and the plot gets even more serious as it progresses. It’s actually somewhat shocking that the film maintains a PG-13 rating with the heavy content, but like other films in the series it does shy away from blood and guts, relying more on jump scares and atmosphere to provide the audience a sense of fear. Those scares are hit or miss, with a few genuine moments of surprise but many more of the telegraphed typical horror film variety. While some scenes may give audiences a quick jolt, the film never creates any lasting feeling of terror.

Returning to pen this entry (as he did the previous three) is series co-creator (and director of INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3) Leigh Whannell. Whannell also stars in the film as Specs, part of the sidekick ghost hunting duo that provide technical assistance to Dr. Elise Rainier. You may notice the wording used in that last sentence and find it odd. After all, Specs and Tucker have never been the focus of any previous INSIDIOUS installments, but rather provided important brief moments of levity to give audiences a chance to breathe and have a break from the tension. One of the major problems with INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY, though, is that Whannell has taken Specs and Tucker from fringe supporting characters almost all the way to centerpieces. In a trend that began with INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3, their screen time has increased and so have the one-liners and goofy actions. Because of their frequency this makes the film feel like almost half comedy. Instead of the jokes being used as levity, they are gags that bring attention to these characters, taking the audience out of the tension built up. It’s almost like two guys from a buddy cop comedy got dropped into this horror movie. It feels very, very weird. Whannell also really gets lost in his story, and as it gets deeper and darker it also becomes more convoluted. There are some really interesting ideas, but he just doesn’t deliver them in narrative form in a crisp understandable manner. The time travel element that takes place in The Further, in particular, has never been explained well and is no different here. Understandably there is some disbelief that must be had to accept the fantastical nature of the spirit world in the INSIDIOUS franchise, but the decisions here just take that further (pun intended) than most viewers are going to be willing to go.

Also disappointing was Robitel’s male gaze as a director. This is something that I have only recently started to notice, but did so multiple times in this film and one particular scene is an egregious example. It’s because of this scene, which focuses the camera up close on a female’s heaving chest for nearly 30 seconds as she lays on the floor gasping for breath, that it became hard to take the two new young female characters very seriously. So little devotion is given to developing their characters and in the end they are simply a plot device and object of desire for Specs and Tucker. Robitel does manage to create solid atmospheric fright at times. His framing of character faces within scenes where action is taking place in the background was something that stuck out as a positive, and the opening section of the film was quite strong as well. Additionally, the demon design and way in which it attacks is unique and scary, even if it does move a bit like The Crooked Man from THE CONJURING 2.

VERDICT

Continuing the downward spiral after a solid first two films, INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY deserves to be locked away and forgotten. Whannell’s script puts way too much focus on himself and his comedy sidekick, while also taking a strong opening idea and making it so complicated that its difficult to take seriously. Robitel’s direction isn’t all bad, and the physical atmosphere is appropriately creepy, but the objectification of two younger female characters is hard to ignore. The INSIDIOUS franchise under Wan’s hand was great, but it has now lost the focus it once had and it’s time to use THE LAST KEY to close the door on these ideas for good.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ It: Annabelle: Creation

(SPOILER FREE) Aaron and Ryan walk out of the theater and go straight into a conversation about their thoughts on Annabelle: Creation. This newest film in the growing Conjuring film universe is full of scares, but does it correct Annabelle’s failures and succeed as a prequel? Listen to find out what both a fan of the film series and a non-horror fan think!

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