All Good Things in The Conjuring

The Conjuring Vera Farmiga

Vera Farmiga plays Lorraine Warren with sincerity in THE CONJURING

When the close-knit Perron clan (headed by a laid back Ron Livingston and lovely earthy Lili Taylor) move into a bucolic New England home on a deceptively serene lake, it’s not long before this old house they bought at auction begins raising hell.  Who you gonna call in the era before basic cable paranormal investigators?  Ed and Lorraine Warren – played in their pre-Amityville Horror days by Patrick Wilson (partially raised eyebrows and all manly reactions) and Vera Farmiga (wily, caring and determined).  The spectacular scenario is wisely set up by jumping back and forth between the two families who soon collide in a supernatural cataclysm.

The Conjuring, James Wan’s startling and enormously entertaining Destroy All Ghosts! story, plays like a montage of horror’s greatest hits from the past twenty years. Continue reading

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Moody Lighting, Red Hallways and Religious Symbolism Run Amuck in Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives - Ryan Gosling

A piece of human scoria (Billy Burke) with strong ties to the Bangkok criminal underworld murders an underage prostitute and is then justly dispensed of by the avenging angel ex-cop, Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), which sets off a sequence of violent events as Billy’s brother, Julian (a practically speechless Ryan Gosling), is ordered against his will by his evil wicked-witch of a mother, Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas – so brilliant at going against type and positively oozing with diabolical dirt-baggery), to mete out Chang.  Suffice it say…(am I spoiling anything here?)…wrong move, brother.  Only God Forgives is a film about the scum of the earth…ahhhh…but it’s an art film!

If Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive was the best neo-noir “love story in the city of dreams” since David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, then Only God Forgives is a despicable neo-noir “hate story in the city of sin.”  Continue reading

Your Spin: The Most Memorable Cinematic Performance by an Actress

It’s time to put The Spin in your hands!

This is the first round of a new recurring feature where you, the reader, get to vote.

Your first decision point:  The Most Memorable Cinematic Performance by an Actress…EVER.  Yup, ever.

Actress - Greek Mask

And the nominees are:

  • For becoming the saint Reincarnate – Maria Falconetti – The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Because, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn – Vivien Leigh – Gone with the Wind
  • For suposin’ we should get out but quick – Barbara Stanwyck – Double Indemnity
  • For knowing when to walk away – Alida Valli – The Third Man
  • For becoming One – Bibi Andersson & Liv Ullmann – Persona
  • For being television incarnate and madness, Diana, virulent madness – Faye Dunaway – Network
  • Because you told me every man’s voice you hear is mine – Nastassja Kinski – Paris, Texas
  • For showing us hard work pays off – Linda Fiorentino – The Last Seduction
  • For being Good – Emily Watson – Breaking the Waves
  • For knowing that killing people is the one thing you’re not about to stop – Charlize Theron – Monster
  • For making me fall in love with you and the city of dreams – Naomi Watts – Mulholland Drive

Think we left someone out?  Start the debate in the comments form and then vote!

The Lights are Dim in Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim 1

In the past Guillermo del Toro has used ghosts as metaphors for fractured relationships (The Devil’s Backbone) and task-master demons as the personifications of the ill effects of civil war and bad parenting (Pan’s Labyrinth), but in Pacific Rim he goes Hollywood and delivers a simple giant monsters vs. giant robots saga.  Which….when you think about…in the hands of del Toro…should be totally badass, right?  I mean, 180 million dollars to film non-stop monsters vs. robots mayhem?  What could go wrong?

Pacific Rim is by no means a bad flick, in fact, most of it is quite fun.  I just couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed considering the can’t miss concept and del Toro’s knack for adding deeper meaning to genre conventions while delivering some of the most wildly imaginative creature effects you’ll ever see.  Everything about it is just…well…good…but not as good as it should be…or as good as I wished it could be.

The monster (kaiju) and robot (jaegar) designs are well done and handled with great care (it’s not your typical cut-and-paste CGI) but sadly, though saturated with rich colors and photographed much more cleanly than a Michael Bay film, the gee-whiz effects spend most of the film hazed in smoke, the dark of night or covered in water.  I would’ve liked some more lingering shots…some more day time stuff…to really bring about that sense of awe. Continue reading

Word Up/Word Down v1.0

Too Many Words

I once had an editor tell me my writing was too wordy.

HA!

Well, this is for you then.

There’s not enough time in the world to dive deeply into everything that falls into The Spin, so we’re test driving a potential new recurring feature where I will extol enlightening (or not) one word reviews/thoughts on a myriad of stuff.

Think of them as flash reviews.  Quick Quips.  Free association.  Word Up/Word Down.

So, here we go:

Word Up/Word Down v1.0

Share your own one word reviews of stuff you’ve recently seen or read in the comments field.

And then let us know what you think!

Spotlight on the Independent Arts: In the Family

In the Family

With the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down DOMA, it seemed fitting for The Spin’s Spotlight to turn to In the Family – a scrappy but subtle independent film that struggled to find a distributor, was rejected at many festivals, was ultimately released by the filmmaker himself into a smattering of art houses in New York last year where it quietly received some raves (from the late Ebert and the Times) and is now currently available through Netflix.

*SPOILERS AHEAD – this is as much a review of the film as it is a study of the film’s techniques and storytelling style*

Joey Williams (Patrick Wang) is a mild-mannered contractor from a small town in Tennessee.  He lives with Cody (Trevor St John), a fine upstanding middle-school math teacher, and together they raise Cody’s six-year old biological son, Chip (Sebastian Banes), as their son.  Their life couldn’t be more ordinary, more peaceful:  Chip is obsessed with dragons and talks too much, Joey works long hours and always drinks a beer before bed and Cody passionately runs his classroom like clockwork.  They hang out with friends and family, who range from wholeheartedly to awkwardly accepting of this happy little family unit.  They talk.  They laugh.  All is well.  But then Cody dies in a car crash, and Joey is suddenly thrust into a situation where he has no legal standing to keep his son and the only testament left behind is from just after Chip was born and before Cody got together with Joey where Cody left everything (the house, Chip) to his sister Eileen (Kelly McAndrew).  Suddenly, in a fit of confusion and poor communication, the sister takes Chip, there’s a restraining order, and Joey’s world comes crashing in on him.

Sounds melodramatic, right?  Sounds like the perfect story for a filmmaker to get on a soapbox, right?  Sounds like someone’s going to take a stand…draw a clear line in the sand, right?  WRONG.  Great care is taken, and great restraint is shown.  Continue reading