Rating: The Good – 75.5 Genre: Horror Duration: 112 mins Director: James Wan Stars: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston
Bone chilling 70’s-set possession story adorned with all the hallmarks of the best vintages. Married couple Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are the married paranormal investigators called upon to help a terrorised family who are being haunted by a particularly nasty demon. By now, we all know the final score and how the points are scored but James Wan’s movie nuances the familiar plot in all manner of creepy ways to exact as much out of it as possible. Forsaking the safety net of gore, Wan and company rely completely on mood, timing, and no small number of innovative devices to generate the scares. Using the investigative couple’s background in the occult as a basis for both tension and sub-plot, there are essentially three horror stories spun together here but not so anything is taken away from the central plot. In fact, as is often intended but rarely transpires, they compound each other so that they generate a cumulative terror. The result is genuinely one of the scariest movies to emerge from Hollywood in decades.
The Conjuring looks and sounds the part too thanks to some comprehensive production design, Joseph Bishara’s even score, and Kirk M. Morri (visual) and Joe Dzuban’s (sound) elegant editing. The final piece to the puzzle is the casting. Without breaking the bank, the four leads are all household names which not only nests the events in a priceless familiarity but also ensures a degree of class that most horror movies lack. This only adds to the film’s earnestness and thus magnifies the fear factor. Wilson is, as usual, slightly stiff but again, as usual, in a manner that suits his character. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston are equally strong as the beleaguered mother and father. However, Farmiga makes the most of her character with a steady turn as the compassionate but strong psychic. It all gets very loud towards the end and while this is perhaps one of its more unsubtle touches, it doesn’t destabilise the movie as is often the case. On the contrary, from beginning to end, The Conjuring is utterly text-book in its construction.
Rating: The Good – 77 Genre: Comedy Duration: 89 mins Director: Steve De Jarnatt Stars: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman
Mike Judge’s outstanding and totally original comedy stars Ron Livingston as an initially uptight office worker who is hypnotised into becoming an über-relaxed and happy-go-lucky individual, oblivious to his over-bearing girlfriend or ridiculous boss (played by a hysterical Gary Cole). Judge’s quirky sense of humour and style define the feel of Office Space making it extremely enjoyable to watch. The way in which he captures the easy inertia of Livingston’s stress-free life is particularly funny and actually quite impressive as it really nails a state of mind most of us would deem ideal. Many of the set pieces have long since ascended into cult legend but Office Space is mainly about the well written characters and the actors who play them. Livingston is superb in the lead role combining his innate likability with an insightful reading of the script. Jennifer Anniston is equally endearing as his ditsy love interest while David Herman is a hoot as the Michael Bolton hating guy named Michael Bolton (his stuck in traffic scene alone makes the film worth watching). Best of all though is Cole in a sublimely hilarious if not iconic turn as the coffee mug carrying boss. Not many characters can transcend the films they originated in but thanks to some essential writing and Cole’s inanely self-consumed tilt, Lumbergh is up there with the Dudes and Carl Spacklers of the comedy world.
Rating: The Good – 81.6 Genre: Comedy Duration: 96mins Director: Doug Liman Stars: Vince Vaughn, Heather Graham, Jon Favreau
“Be like the guy in the rated R movie.” If the 90′s was the golden era of ‘cool cinema’ (and it was), then it’s no small thing to say that Swingers is one of the coolest 90′s films. Written by Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn, Swingers is a highly perceptive comedy drama that quite cleverly combines extremely relatable characters with dialogue so cool and catchy that it borders on the seminal. The story is a brutally honest account of love lost and friendship but rather than descending into a maudlin affair, it remainsincisively funny because of the easy chemistry the entire cast share. Vaughn’s performance as the happy-go-luck ladies’ man is only short of being iconic and though his story plays second fiddle to Favreau, it’s his character more than any other, who gives the movie its carefree and playful tone. Favreau on the other hand, as the uptight and emotionally vulnerable stand-up comedian, gives us something very different but no less compelling and the awkward way in which he interacts with women throughout the first stages of the movie seems so intuitively real that on many occasions (the phone message scene being the obvious example), you dare not look. However, even the outstanding script and performances are elevated onto another plane thanks to the assured and super slick direction of then up-and-comer Doug Liman, who zips things along in a seductive manner punctuating the film’s easy flow here and there with some well executed and delightfully resonating moments of cinematic self-reference. “They’re gonna give daddy the rainman suite!”