With everything going on in my life these days, a few of my old habits have fallen by the wayside. Like the management of my Netflix queue. Gone are the times when queue updating and careful orchestration was an important near daily task (and I do miss it).
Still, I manage to sandwich in a flick now and then and, most recently, that movie was Cloverfield. It's a film I had really high hopes for, being as I am one of those people who is always hoping to actually be scared sh!tless by a movie. It doesn't happen very often.
Horror is the most difficult of genres; a half-step this way or that quickly lands a filmmaker in the realm of the ridiculous. Horror is, I think, mostly the art of subtlety usually coupled with a big ol' slap in the face now and then. And I doubt today's ham-handed movie makers can even spell subtle much less accomplish it on film or really grasp the concept. (I'm talking Hollywood here, not the Indies which is where, if we have any, all our hope lies.)
So, anyway, Cloverfield, as it turns out, is basically Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla but with better special effects. It's worth seeing for a few cheap thrills, but there's definitely nothing new here. And the dialogue...oy. Let me give you a sample of roughly seventy-five percent of it:
"Rob...Rob! Oh my God, Rob! Rob! No...no, Rob! Come back Rob! Rob! That's an electronics store...Rob! Rob! What are you doing, Rob?! Rob! ROB! We can't go that way, Rob! ROB! COME BACK! NO! OHMYGOD! ROB! ROOOOOB!..."
Yes, people, Rob is a very busy guy. Obviously they were going for realism here, but gah, stop it. On the bright side, the movie could be useful as a frat party game--everyone drinks when they hear "Rob". Anyone conscious after the first third of the film wins. (Does anyone besides me remember the "The Bob Newhart Show" drinking game? Man. How long ago was that?).
If you're wondering what horror films I DO consider great (and you are, aren't you?), I'll give you my top ten. As of today (because these things are constantly in flux) in no particular order:
The Mothman Prophecies
Other recent films I've taken in include Dan in Real Life, a uneven romantic comedy that aspires to the heights of Cousins, but barely makes it passed Hallmark movie status. I'm not sure what is going on with Juliette Binoche in this one, she is usually a fairly reliable sentimental favorite of mine since her unforgettable breakthrough performance in Damage, holy CRAP, was that ever intense. Anyway, she is a little lost in this movie performance-wise, but seems to have undergone a bit of an overhaul appearance-wise. A nip here and tuck there were in evidence along with a general slimming down.
I saw Twenty Seven Dresses on the plane back from Key West and it was absolute trite, predictable crap. With one small exception: they had the good sense to include a tune from my girl Regina Spektor in the soundtrack (Fidelity).
In conclusion: rent Cloverfield for the special effects but don't expect innovation, pass on Dan in Real Life and 27 Dresses.
If you want to see something really interesting, rent my sidebar recommendation, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? a film about a young, smart, but unlikely candidate for the US House of Representatives from Missouri named Jeff Smith. Smith ran against Russ Carnahan, a candidate with a huge amount of name recognition. The film is a fascinating look at the political process in this country today and what it takes to win.