Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Leave the Lights On

by Ethan Alter August 26, 2011 6:00 am
<i>Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark</i>: Leave the Lights On

One of the things that distinguishes Guillermo Del Toro's horror films from the rest of the genre rabble are their formal elegance, to say nothing of their narrative discipline. Where a movie like the recent Fright Night remake demonstrates a short-term memory for scares -- cramming multiple jolts into every scene with little regard to the overall arc of the film -- Del Toro takes his time establishing a compelling mood, intriguing characters and a distinctive setting before getting down to the spooky stuff. The setting plays a particularly important role in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a haunted house chiller that takes place almost entirely within the walls of a 19th century manor. From the minute we lay eyes on the place, we know there's something not quite right about it -- beautiful Gothic architecture and to-die-for closet space notwithstanding -- and part of the fun of the movie lies in watching the house's hidden horrors slowly bubble to the surface. The difference between Fright Night and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is like the difference between a novice poker player and an experienced card shark; the former tips his hand too quickly, while the latter bides his time before revealing what he's holding.

Colombiana: Good Girl Gone Bad

by Ethan Alter August 26, 2011 5:59 am
<i>Colombiana</i>: Good Girl Gone Bad

There are dumb action movies and then there's Colombiana, a revenge flick so relentlessly ridiculous and blatantly brain-damaged that you've got to wonder if the filmmakers are just messing with us from behind the camera. It would be one thing if the film were a broadly cartoonish romp like the 2007 spoof Shoot 'Em Up or a beautifully executed bit of absurdity such as John Woo's lone Hollywood masterpiece, Face/Off. But Colombiana is neither witty enough nor stylish enough to qualify as an "accidentally on purpose" guilty pleasure. Mainly it's just a waste of time, talent and resources on a movie that would feel more at home in the direct-to-DVD aisle of your local big box store than on a multiplex marquee.

From <i>Amityville</i> to <I>Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark</i>: Flip This (Haunted) House

In the Guillermo Del Toro-produced horror film Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, an architect moves his girlfriend and young daughter into Blackwood Manor, a centuries-old mansion that he's trying to restore to its former glory. In the course of their stay, the trio is shocked to discover that this house is -- gasp -- haunted! That won't come as a shock to any of us in the audience; the minute we lay eyes on the manor's dimly lit rooms, Gothic decor and dark, dank basement, we know that there are some serious supernatural shenanigans going on in there. Chalk that up to years of observing other cinematic haunted houses and learning to recognize the tell-tale signs of ghosts, monsters and other creatures that go bump in the night. Now we're putting that knowledge to the test, imagining the way real estate agents might try to sell novice buyers on some famous poltergeist-ridden properties and the things we'd tell them to be wary of.

After <i>Conan the Barbarian</i>: The Fantasy Franchises Jason Momoa Should Revive Next

It's taken 27 years, but Hollywood finally got around to making another Conan movie. Since the original big-screen Cimmerian barbarian is currently in exile following a detour into politics and a series of personal troubles, Conan's sword has been passed to a new slab of beefcake, Jason Momoa. The Hawaiian-born actor has a fair amount of experience playing muscle-bound warriors with superb fighting skills and great hair -- check out his work on the TV shows Stargate Atlantis and Game of Thrones for proof. And if the new Conan flops, there are plenty of other '80s fantasy franchises in need of a revival that Momoa would be a good fit for. Because, let's be honest: we're all kinda tired of these girlyman action heroes, right?

<i>Rise of the Planet of the Apes</i>: You Finally Made a Monkey out of Me

Full disclosure: I, like many of the people who will go to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes this weekend, have never actually seen an entire Apes film from start to finish. I have, however, watched the famous clips, know the plotlines and have all of the Simpsons references committed to memory. I tell you this because instead of going into this film as a fan of the franchise, I wanted to view it more as standalone summer blockbuster. I believe that even if I was a diehard Aper (that's what y'all are called, right?), I wouldn't feel a substantial amount of yearning to know the complete origin story of exactly how the apes came to take over earth by the year 3978 -- or, I suppose, 5021, if you're a Tim Burton fan . The premise makes sense and everything as a movie, but it can also just be summed up in two words: crazy science.

<I>The Smurfs</I>: This Movie Is So Smurfing Smurf That You’ll Leave Smurfing

The beauty of the Smurf "language" is that it is open to so much interpretation. One could translate the title either as: "This Movie Is So Freaking Great That You Leave Smiling" or "This Movie Is So Annoyingly Painful That You'll Leave Complaining" or any variation of those two. Though if you are over the age of eight, you'll probably find the latter interpretation to be the most accurate.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Oh, the Humanity!

by Ethan Alter June 29, 2011 6:00 am
<i>Transformers: Dark of the Moon</i>: Oh, the Humanity!

In the run-up to the release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third entry in the feature film franchise based on the old Hasbro toy line, director Michael Bay has been telling anyone who'll listen that the new film won't commit the sins of its predecessor, the widely loathed Revenge of the Fallen. From where I sat though, Dark of the Moon played like more of the same: a largely incoherent assembly of eardrum-shattering, chaotically-choreographed action sequences that are occasionally interrupted by hilariously campy dramatic moments and painfully unfunny bits of "comedy," as well as a few randomly inserted slow-mo money shots of one of the interchangeable CGI-robots actually transforming in a desperate attempt to make the audience think they're having a good time.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop: Team Coco Forever

by Ethan Alter June 24, 2011 6:00 am
<i>Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop</i>: Team Coco Forever

The deliberately truncated title of Rodman Flender's terrific new documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop -- which takes viewers backstage on the carrot-topped comedian's 2010 live show the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour -- can be completed four different ways based on what we see in the movie.

The 16 Most Ridiculous Things About Eclipse

by Angel Cohn July 1, 2010 2:29 pm
The 16 Most Ridiculous Things About <I>Eclipse</I>

I tore through these books a few years back like a crack addict desperate for a fix, but these movies... they might be the death of me. And yet, I still force myself to go see them to see just how terrible they are. On the one hand, they are hysterical (especially the newest one), but on the other hand, I'm not entirely sure that they're in on the joke. Like, should I be laughing when newborn vampires are eviscerating a poor soul because their leader Riley just has the dumbest look on his face? Probably not, but it totally makes me giggle to no end. Writing a review of this is pointless, since, judging by the hordes of teens and moms at the theater near my house at 10 PM, this movie is going to make a gazillion dollars no matter how awful it may be or how much of a set-up it is for the last two films (which have the most preposterous plot... I can't even...), and people will turn out in droves, plan parties, start rival gang wars, buy merchandise, set up shrines, etc... But before you're forced to take your favorite pre-teen (or drooling spouse) to the film, find out what insanity this latest Twilight installment has in store. Fair warning, the text below does contain a great deal of spoilers, but if you haven't read the books and you're planning on seeing this anyway, you probably really don't care.

2012 Isn’t John Cusack’s First Cinematic Disaster

by Angel Cohn November 11, 2009 1:39 pm
<I>2012</I> Isn’t John Cusack’s First Cinematic Disaster

The new disaster movie to end all disaster movies known as 2012 enters theaters this weekend with John Cusack in the hero role. This film involves crashing aircraft carriers, tidal waves and the destruction of New York, California and the White House. It looks relentless and John Cusack looks like he's going to do his best to stop whatever is causing this worldwide annihilation... or at least avoid getting killed in the process. But while this is Cusack's first proper disaster flick, there are other movies he's made that turned out to be massive disasters of a different sort. Some might have even been considered career suicide. He's lucky he survived.

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