Gone Girl (R)

10 Stars

This doesn’t bode well for my reading career.

Gone Girl is spectacular. A strong contender for this year’s Best Picture.

I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

Reading the book isn’t necessary.

The difference between the textual and visual is minimal. Reconsider the commitment lingering on your bookshelf.

This is one flick you won’t want to miss.

If you’ve got a better half, bring him or her along. Both men and women will thoroughly enjoy.

It’s long (145 minutes total) but should hold your interest throughout.

The screenplay for G.G. is by Gillian Flynn, the same woman who penned the novel.

If Gone Girl offers any qualitative inclination toward G.F.’s alternative texts, let’s hope Sharp Objects and Dark Places are green-lit.

Director David Fincher doesn’t have a distinct public persona like Tarantino, or an iconic physical appearance like Scorcese’s.

That doesn’t detract from his mastery of feature film direction.

Iconic motion pictures like Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo highlight his filmography.

If a story’s a stairway, Gone Girl is a multi-tiered double escalator.

It’s extremely well written, and the tension is like radio static, vibrating angrily amidst the coiling score.

The pacing is kinetic; the story constantly switching gears.

The humor is occasional in a realistic fashion. The self-awareness is pointedly subtle.

The characters are sympathetic and well rounded.

Is it even necessary to mention Neil Patrick Harris’s performance? Can’t we just assume he was fantastic from now on?

How about Ben Affleck, everyone’s favorite punching bag? Folks who doubted him should be flogged with a sofa cushion.

Upon recommending Gone Girl, a friend’s initial hesitation hinges on Affleck’s involvement.

First of all, that’s like saying you’re missing the N’SYNC concert because you don’t like J.T.’s pipes.

Benny was never ‘bad’ at acting, by any stretch of the imagination. Folks cite 2003’s Gigli and Daredevil as Fleck Daddy’s downfall.

I can’t speak to the former, but a final thought on the latter.

At fourteen years old, a group of friends and I thoroughly enjoyed Daredevil in the theater. Plus, it gave us a ‘walk in the shoes’ of a blind person. Whether we appreciated it or not; we were educated on a lifestyle none of us understood.

I can still cite multiple scenes in detail, and I haven’t seen Daredevil since that initial viewing.

My basic point is: Don’t skip Gone Girl because of a strong opposition to Affleck’s acting ability.

Rosamund Pike delivers a knock-out performance.

She’s a semi-unknown, but a glance at her filmography proves she deserves more notoriety.

I’ve a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.

The remainder of the cast is just as good, but too much detail may trigger a spoiler, so I’ll leave it at that.

The warm weather left with the hummingbirds, but at least there are solid flicks repopulating theaters.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (R)

10 Stars

It’s not a story about a Beatles fan stumbling down a well.

I highly recommend The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.

It’s completely character driven but beautifully written.

Many parts are wonderful, where to start?

Look for it in your local arthouse theaters…I can’t believe I just used that phrase. Yuck, what’s happening to me?

Anyway, hopefully it’s playing somewhere near you, because it only got limited release.

I hiked all the way to the Landmark Renaissance Theater, which doesn’t have ‘Regal’ or ‘AMC’ anywhere in the title.

So purchasing the ticket online does nothing; waiting in queue is still required to print the stub.

It’s a first world problem, I know, but a problem nonetheless. The more avoidable issue stems from the fellow coughing several seats down, forcing me to reposition nine rows up. But I won’t get into that.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is broken into three films: Him, Her and Them. All three films follow the same time period, but are told from the differing perspectives of Connor Ludlow (James McAvoy) and Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain), a young married couple living in New York.

The version currently in theaters, Them, depicts the plot from both characters’ perspectives.

Him and Her will be released in arthouse theaters on October 10, 2014, so I’ll be schlepping back to the Landmark.

The pacing is smart, the stakes are high, the tension’s constantly palpable and the character development is elegant.

Romance isn’t my favorite genre, but I can’t imagine it being done any better.

Ultimately it’s a tale of moral ambiguity,

James McAvoy is just fantastic.

This fellow, along with his role in X-Men: Days of Future Past from earlier this summer, is turning into quite the prolific movie star.

Keep up the good work, James!

My favorite leading lady, Jessica Chastain, is lights-out. She looks good with short hair.

Her character is incredibly likable and sympathetic. Props to Rebecca Edmonston who did the costumes. All of Chastain’s outfits are fantastic.

Viola Davis kills it in this movie.

She’s great in Prisoners and Ender’s Game but this is probably her best role yet.

I cried several times throughout. This movie is incredibly touching.

Don’t let me oversell it, but TDOER is easily one of the best films released in 2014.

This may be the right candidate for ‘Best Date Movie’ ever. Or perhaps it’s the worst date movie ever. Depends upon your perspective.

See what I did there?

Just about as ‘meta’ as you can get in a film review.

The Skeleton Twins (R)

9 Stars

This is my least favorite type of movie.

I call them ‘sad swamps.’ Trekking through can be an emotional chore.

The best examples coming to mind are The Fault in Our Stars (thumbs-down) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (thumbs-up).

The Skeleton Twins is no exception; there’s some heartbreaking stuff in here. Don’t expect it to relent, either.

Plus it’s an out-and-out quirkedy, and super low budget.

All that being said, I really enjoy The Skele Twins.

Wow, comedy has flourished this summer.

On top of Neighbors, 22 Jump Street and Let’s Be Cops; The ST brings the tally to four consistently hilarious entries for the genre.

Plus, we’ve still got the sequels to Hot Tub Time Machine and Dumb & Dumbr looking forward.

The Skeleton Twins is similar to Let’s Be Cops in several ways.

Take the shooting style for instance. The edges of the frame are oftentimes hazy with only the characters in focus.

During a scene near the end, through a window in the background the viewer can see it’s snowing outside. It’s hard to tell because of the blurry visual, but it’s a misleading inconsistency.

The comedy is similar as well, because a lot of it seems improvised.

The cast is tiny.

Besides the two leads, there’s only a pair of other recognizable faces.

Ty Burrell is one of our finest actors working today. Here he turns in another performance befitting that reputation.

Luke Wilson is outstanding. He’s great in a number of movies (especially Idiocracy) but this may be his best role ever.

He plays a refreshingly sympathetic husband to Kristen Wiig’s character. Which is illustrative of a greater theme.

The Skeleton Twins highlights compelling character interactions through the context of a complicated relationship.

Bill Hader is incredibly convincing playing a gay role. In fact, he is so similar to my college roommate, I found myself reminiscing about my old buddy.

With his wide-eyed expression, the brutal honesty and even-toned sarcasm. Oh and the mastery of lip-syncing and impromptu dancing. I was totally sold on his character.

Kristen Wiig is spot-on, as always.

Her timing is just so perfect. Plus she has a way with demanding sympathy from the viewer.

That woman’s got the Midas touch. She only appears in great movies.

Although it takes an emotional toll (I was tearing up on 2-3 separate occasions in the 93 minute duration) The Skeleton Twins is a very funny movie that covers a number of timely issues.

I highly recommend it to any and all interested viewers.

To note a final similarity to Let’s Be Cops, the ending doesn’t necessarily wrap everything up.

But when the credits abruptly roll, getting mired in this sad swamp feels worthwhile.

The Maze Runner (PG-13)

8 Stars

What do The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, Divergent and The Maze Runner all have in common?

They’re based on dystopian YA novels.

They’re also introductions to a multi-part series.

And I never stop hollering about this, but they’re all rated PG-13.

Which is ultimately The Maze Runner’s least redeeming quality.

After all, it’s my favorite of the four previously mentioned.

The MZ’s mostly a quality flick.

Although the stakes are high, the ratings-board approved shellac is still clearly visible. An educated viewer can’t shake the awareness of censorship.

For example, during the more harried sequences (mostly involving a battle or pursuit via ‘grievers’) the filmmakers use the shadowy quick-edits to obscure the violence.

Luckily the CGI monsters are shown in full.

The ‘grievers’ are buffalo-sized mechanical beetles. As far as creatures go, they’re truly outstanding, original and horrific.

The only problem stems from a false hint at the surreal.

If you pay close attention, The Maze Runner is an astounding allegory for entering adulthood. This is in keeping with the summer trend of allegorical science fiction, with Snowpiercer (which I do recommend) and The Zero Theorem (which I don’t).

The plot develops lightning fast. This in turn can lead to confusion.

Or maybe I’m just too old for this sort of thriller.

So, yes, an elevator shaft is reminiscent of the birth canal.

Yes, a labyrinth is a classic metaphor for life.

Yes, the supporting characters resemble archetypes.

But the mind-bending portion of this thrill ride’s a red herring.

Because, no, the plot doesn’t take place inside the protagonist’s head. The viewer need not be concerned with how individual events fit into the self-contained metaphor.

Consider the sequence of obstacles Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien) must overcome while fleeing the first griever. Think about the ways he adapts to the physical environment, the increasing risk and differing tasks required to move forward.

A few notes on the acting.

The girl, Kaya Scodelario, turns in a solid performance as Teresa. As does Blake Cooper playing Chuck, the protagonist’s younger buddy.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster (of Game of Thrones fame) plays Newt, punching the thespian clock with efficiency.

Will Poulter from We’re the Millers plays a bit of a one-note character but executes the role proficiently. I like this guy; he’s going places.

Patricia Clarkson plays Ava Paige, a mash-up of Glenn Close’s Nova Prime in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jodie Foster’s Secretary Delacourt in Elysium. Much like Teresa, we learn very little about Ava.

The mix of action, suspense and adequate special effects add up to a compelling thriller and a strong entry into the YA novel-turned-film catalogue.

See it in IMAX – this is one you won’t want to miss.

Things aren’t looking good for the Ender’s Game franchise.

However, according to Wikipedia, “Two weeks prior to [The Maze Runner’s] release 20th Century Fox decided to move ahead with the sequel and pre-production began in early September 2014 in New Mexico.”

Whether or not the box office earnings compensate for the $34 million budget, it seems like we’ll be seeing a follow-up.

If anyone’s looking, I’ll be in my tent, eagerly awaiting The Scorch Trials.

The Zero Theorem (R)

5 Stars

Ever heard of Harry Potter?

This is nothing like that.

David Thewlis, also known as Professor Lupin, is the only similarity between the two narratives.

The Z.T.’s bleak, folks.

It’s dark, foreboding and existential. To follow a recent trend it’s also allegorical. Therefore, things can get confusing.

[Quick sidebar: Counting Snowpiercer this marks Tilda Swinton’s second supporting role in a sci-fi allegory in the past year. What an oddly specific niche.]

Should you see it?

It depends on your viewing habits. If you’re a movie review blogger, you can do a lot worse than The Zero Theorem.

But for the average viewer, I wouldn’t recommend. There are plenty of better options available for rental. Skim some of my earlier blog posts if you need suggestions.

The price bugs me.

If you’re still interested it’s available for HD rental thru Xfinity OnDemand, iTunes and Amazon for $9.99.

Ten bucks feels like too much.

Despite the straight to VOD release, The Z.T. is a lot more ambitious than the trailer lets on. The preview lead me to believe director Terry Gilliam mailed it in.

But alas!

This movie contains a lot of solid material.

Where else are you going to find a pink chaise lounge?

Portions of the environment are sources of great irritation and intrigue. But I suppose that’s the Terry Gilliam thing. Much of the physical setting is reminiscent of 12 Monkeys, another mind-bending dystopian movie involving time travel and paradoxes.

Z.T.‘s futuristic landscape is elaborate and compelling. The streets are covered with graffiti; digital advertisements and adhesive ‘tags’ plastered all over the alleyway.

I’d say The Zero Theorem‘s right on par with A Dozen Bonobos.

Although I haven’t seen Brazil, my favorite Gilliam is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Watch it instead if it’s eluded you thus far.

For those dead-set on catching Z.T. here’s a couple notes on the casting.

Christoph Waltz stars as Qohen, and never ceases to impress.

After major supporting roles in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, he plays a completely different character here.

From the cadence of his voice to the movement of his gaze, it’s obvious he works hard to differentiate himself between roles.

What a dynamite thespian – good on ya, Christoph!

Matt Damon plays a small supporting role as ‘Management,’ and he’s excellent.

So add another bullet to the long list of ‘Good Reasons to Adore Mr. D.’

David Thewlis and Tilda Swinton are great. Lucas Hedges is good.

But far and away my favorite character is Bainsley.

Mélanie Thierry delivers an awesome performance, particularly befitting the Gilliam modus operandi. She’s got that twittery futuristic spunk, the neon haired quirketude. Which sounds grating, but it’s actually quite cute and delightful.

Part of this is thanks to the writing. In order to fill out the futuristic world in a realistic fashion, screenwriters often utilize the cyberpunk diction. It’s an alien form of English, and often seems bizarre at first.

It works well here, particularly because of the acting.

Every once in a while Bainsley will say something like, “You got a mouse in your pocket?” her charisma reminding the viewer to notice the occasional warmth.

Despite the bleak premise.

There is a lot of social commentary buried throughout. Some of it is a bit on-the-nose, like the satirical news station, ‘Dumbc’ or some such silliness.

But the more subtle stuff can really bolster a scene. When Qohen first meets Bainsley, it’s jarring to see the partygoers ‘fake smoking.’ At first it seems like quirk for the sake of quirk.

These moments are a lot more nuanced than they appear, however.

During a later scene, Qohen is sitting on a park bench. The backdrop is a swarm of ‘No [Insert Fun Activity] Allowed’ signs.

The visual flood of placards is both an eyesore and quite a strong metaphor.

Terry seems to envision a future in which we’re plagued by bureaucratic overregulation.

Considering the recent discussion regarding the heroic San Franciscans and their unending skirmish against synthetic shopping totes, I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Gill.i.Am.

Finally, I really enjoyed the artificial reality. The blending of digital pornography and prostitution offers a compelling and original spin on the sci-fi construct.

By the by, it’s ironic considering Qohen’s pursuing an answer to the ultimate question.

But he can’t install a little bit of conduit?

The Tree of Life (R)

5 Stars

I hate melancholy.

Floating in existential whispery sadness doesn’t warm the cockles.

I can’t believe The Tree of Life was nominated for best picture. Sure there’s good stuff in there, but it’s been a long time since I wanted a movie to end so badly.

Let me start out strong with my best argument.

The hushed tone head-hopping voiceover. It’s artistic, and perhaps it works well with this particular plot.

But I doubt it.

Terrence Malick used the exact same effect in his film The Thin Red Line from 1998. Thirteen years later, it’s still just as distracting and uninformative.

I watched Thin Red Line with my Dad a week ago. He seemed to enjoy it more, because I didn’t love it.

In fact, I found TTRL dull, preachy and heartless. More ‘technically’ good, rather than ‘unquestionably’ good. Throw enough dollars into the visual layout, build a bunch of tension and you’ve got a thumbs-up.

Folks toss around the word, ‘boring’ too much. ‘Boring’ is mostly for whiners. It should only be used to describe something that’s extremely dull.

The Tree of Life is boring.

It’s not better than The Thin Red Line, despite a similar visual format.

What is with the gospel music? Was the plot not dull enough?

The cast is excellent. Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn are all very good.

With all the stylish editing, the movie’s very difficult to follow.

Half of The Tree of Life is nature imagery, and features footage from cosmic to microscopic, from water molecules to supernovae. I’m open to a more whimsical form of storytelling, but eventually it gets tiresome.

I disliked this movie because I think Terrence is saying a lot less than he lets on.

As a period piece and a study of a family living in Waco, Texas in 1956, I’m fine with it. But do we need all of this existential stuff, the intergalactic imagery or the vague timeframe?

It seems the puzzle pieces don’t fit together in any coherent fashion.

There are a couple things I’m confused about.

When the velociraptor removes its foot from the wounded dinosaur’s head, is that supposed to be the moment in Earth’s history when humans began evolving? That our greatest redeeming quality is the capacity for compassion?

Well, if so, then great! What’s it teach us about Brad Pitt’s family in 1956?

I’m not convinced the dinosaurs belong in the movie.

The Oedipus complex is also something I never connect with. Perhaps Terrence is trying to show how it manifests itself even in recent history.

I don’t know, and I guess I just don’t care.

The Tree of Life has a few good moments, however.

Young men will appreciate much of the father-son interactions between Brad Pitt and Hunter McCracken.

Whenever Jessica Chastain’s on-screen is generally enjoyable.

At one point, she’s bouncing and twirling in zero gravity beside the tree and it’s enchanting.

If Terry cut out some babbling brooks and tossed in a bit more of Jessica dancing on air, The Tree of Life may have been great.

Oculus (R)

8 Stars


How much is too much?

Although the story remains unread on my bookshelf, I’d imagine Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey deals heavily with this notion.

Since publication, many other horror stories utilize the mirror motif. Candyman (1992) is one of the scariest movies of all time. Mirrors (2008) isn’t as good, but hey – further fright by looking glass!

Bearing in mind horror movies are graded on a curve, Oculus is great.

Not only is it scary, it’s thought provoking and nuanced.

Plus, Karen Gillan!

Throw her on a list of promising young up-and-comers. She plays the bionic woman in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Brenton Thwaites isn’t the cat’s pajamas, but he does just fine.

Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff turn in solid performances as the parents. The kids, Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan were also very good.

First and foremost, Oculus establishes fair and realistic circumstances by which the viewer can suspend disbelief. Some of the best horror movies nowadays struggle with this.

Also, despite a tiny (five million dollar) budget, the movie looks great. You can feel the production value, the effort behind the moviemaking.

Unlike the Paranormal Activity franchise, which I’ve been screaming about since the first was released in 2009. It seems like folks have caught on since the trailer for the fourth movie, but I’m going to be upset if I have to sit through a preview for P.A. 5.

I’ll get back to Oculus in a moment but one last note on the P.A. franchise.

It lessened the credibility of the horror genre by supporting a notion introduced by The Blair Witch Project.

The idea that production value doesn’t necessarily increase believability, and success can be achieved through marketing trickery and cheap filmmaking.

Therefore what’s debatably the campiest genre became even less appealing to the out-group as a large source of revenue. What is commonly perceived as a ‘lesser art form’ is further denigrated by the cheapness required to satisfy the audience.

My soapbox has a stepladder I’m currently descending.

Anyway. Oculus puts the theme of reflection to good use.

Man, horror guys really love their overlapping dualities.

The ending (and Rotten Tomatoes) leads me to believe there will be a sequel, which I’m very intrigued to see.

Two separate timeframes unfold through the perspective of two protagonists, under similar conditions in the same setting. The viewer watches along as the memories overlap with the present.

See? Nuance!

What we have here, folks, is an unreliable narrator.

A subjective third-person omniscient narrator, to be precise.

A perspective that swivels willy-nilly between past and present, reality and delusion.

Oftentimes it’s difficult to discern what’s an objective historical account or concrete memory. The blurred lines between the individual perceptions of both past and present are a theme reflected throughout.

Thus resulting in some rather subtle social commentary regarding psychotherapy.

After all that time spent in self-reflection, how much good does it do him in moving forward?

Didn’t think I was going to bring it back around, did you?

Haywire (R)

9 Stars

This film satisfies.

Specifically the urge to watch a female protagonist square off with a male in hand-to-hand combat, and realistically win.

I’ve never considered how ill-equipped women are for fist-fighting. But that’s probably a good thing.

With the long hair, the unstable shoe heels, and simply the lack of body mass for throwing punches; in reality, most male vs. female altercations won’t result in sophisticated brawls.

And I suppose that’s why we rarely see it in film. When reviewing Captain America: The Winter Soldier I mentioned how we never get enough combat from Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson.


Haywire is great.

The writing, directing, editing, casting, soundtrack/scoring and acting is fantastic. The fights are awesome.

Steven Soderbergh may be my favorite director. His movies never disappoint.

Side Effects podiums amongst the top three films of 2013. You may know him from the Oceans Eleven franchise, Traffic or Out of Sight.

Gina Carano’s biography on IMDB claims Soderbergh, “wrote the role of Mallory Kane specifically for her,” though the screenplay’s written by Lem Dobbs (who also wrote The Limey, another famous Soderbergh flick.)

I knew I recognized Gina C. She plays a great character in Fast & Furious 6!

Others may know her as the famous MMA fighter.

If you see the movie, you’ll understand why Soderbergh’s such a great director. The action is entirely more riveting without stunt doubles.

I dig that Gina Carano. She’s charismatic and lovable as the protagonist. Let’s hope we see more of her in future films.

The chase scenes are quietly spectacular. The plot moves along at a break-neck pace so you have to pay attention.

There’s something about the on-foot chase scene that’s gripping. When it really feels like the characters are sprinting for long periods of time, it’s so engaging.

Haywire’s stylishly edited and utilizes innovative storytelling techniques. One scene cuts between three different types of footage to show a trio of plots developing simultaneously. Plus, there’s no in-scene sound or dialogue, just the musical score.

It’s very cool! And slightly confusing. So pay attention!

The supporting cast is spectacular.

Channing Tatum never disappoints.

Ewan McGregor doing quality Ewan.

Bill Paxton doing quality Paxton.

Anotonio Banderas. Michael Douglas.

Michael Fassbender!

Come on. What more do you need?

Haywire is a top-notch action thriller available for HD rental through Xfinity OnDemand, Amazon or iTunes for $3.99.

There’s nothing special during the credits.

But it’s 93 minutes, and it’s an R-rated flick that men and women will both enjoy.

You might call it a great ‘date movie’.

300: Rise of an Empire (R)

7 Stars

When it comes to expectation, Rotten Tomatoes established a new dynamic.

Although I only made the realization days ago, I’ve been a long-time fan of Frank Miller adaptations, loving both Sin City (2005) and 300 (2006) in the theater.

Since its early March release, 300: Rise of an Empire is certifiably rotten with a critic percentage in the low forties. So I skipped it.

Despite a similar Tomato rating, I saw Sin City: A Dame to Kill For the day after it hit theaters and couldn’t shake the disappointment/frustration for a few days.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I realize Frank Miller’s other sequel is available through Xfinity OnDemand via HD rental for $3.99. I’d totally forgotten it existed.

Neither my time, nor money went to waste.

300: Rise of an Empire is very good.

The co-starring antagonist role, Artemisia, is played by Eva Green. Artemisia is vastly different from Ava Lord, her character from Sin City: AD2K4.

She’s more, ahem, sympathetic.

Green’s slightly less nude, as well, though I don’t believe there’s a correlation.

Eva is top notch. Artemisia is easily 300 Part Deux’s greatest redeeming quality, and I said the same thing about Ava Lord in the sequel to Sin City.

Apparently Green is excellent in any badass female role written by Frank Miller.

Let’s hope we see more out of her in the future!

The same goes for Lena Headey, one of my favorite actresses, who reprises a supporting role as Gorgo. Just like David Wenham as Dilios (Leonidas’s one-eyed loyalist), she doesn’t disappoint.

Love that Lena Headey. She’s a ‘Grade A’ thespian.

One strong aspect of the story is how clearly it overlaps with that of its predecessor. The interaction with the timeline from 300 is never obscure to the viewer.

Clarity has its downsides however. The director recycles bits of footage from the first movie, which always feels like a cop-out. He doesn’t stop there, even reusing original footage introduced in the sequel.

That’s the one-two punch of fair criticism that overlaps with Sin City: AD2K4, wherein footage is also recycled.

It’s a near-certainty this film would be great had it been directed by Zack Snyder.

The writing is very strong. The action takes place at sea and furthers the original narrative, while building the larger world of the story. It’s good stuff!

The battles are epic and beautifully rendered. The CGI’s not perfect, especially when there’s a horse on-ship, but it’s easily ignored.

The outro credits are fun, but there’s no stinger after they start rolling.

Overall, 300: Rise of an Empire isn’t bad by any means.

With strong performances from a solid (albeit lesser known) cast, I’d say it doesn’t disappoint!

To bring it back around: I think this reaction’s noteworthy in contrast to the lingering sadness I felt about Sin City: AD2K4.

Perhaps much-anticipated sequels received with critical disfavor are best left on the backburner until becoming available as a rental. That way, reality can set in, and expectations are appropriately leveled.

By this logic, if Dumb & Dumbr To receives a R.T. percentage in the mid-forties, I should skip it and wait on the rental.

Or otherwise expect severe disappointment, right?

As Above/So Below (R)

7 Stars

Horror movies are rarely called ‘great.’

When was the last critically acclaimed horror movie released? You’d be hard-pressed to find anything since The Ring in 2002.

I haven’t seen The Conjuring, Mama or Oculus but people say they’ve got potential. I thought Drag Me to Hell was pretty good from 2009.

But the last great one I caught in theaters was Devil from 2010.

Which is also directed by John Dowdle. He wrote Quarantine (2008), as well – another solid semi-recent horror.

As Above/So Below is the best horror movie I’ve seen in a long time.

First of all, it’s shot on-location in Paris, which is a delight for any fan of that city. Favorite sights like Notre Dame and Sacre-Coeur are featured throughout.

The filmmakers use almost every shooting style. AA/SB is a mockumentary about Scarlett (played by Perdita Weeks) a young archaeologist searching for the philosopher’s stone. Therefore much of the footage is shot in first-person via headlamp GoPro cams.

Although I’m sick of ‘found footage’ it works better here. For obvious reasons, the budget can’t be massive, so this filmmaking style is particularly suited to horror.

The story is also good, co-written by the director and his brother, Drew.

There’s more nuance than usual. The main characters use deductive reasoning and historical analysis in order to solve riddles and navigate the labyrinthine catacombs.

There’s a lot of rebirth imagery, but I wonder just how far the metaphor goes. Are the ribbed tunnels supposed to be reminiscent of a vaginal lining?

Dichotomies drawn between light and dark, and up and down, are intriguing and thought provoking.

The cast of unknowns delivers strong performances. It’s tough to get through a whole scary movie without poor acting or cheesy moments.

Apparently I’m in the minority because AA/SB is getting 13% amongst top critics and 57% amongst the users on Rotten Tomatoes.

But I would encourage an open mind, because it’s a cut above the rest.

If you’re looking for a decent flick this weekend, especially if you dig horror, you can do a lot worse than As Above/So Below.