Tag Archives: Suspense

New ‘Cloverfield’ outperforms original

There could be some spoiling going on. You were warned.

I won’t go extensively into the plot of 10 Cloverfield Lane or anything like that in this analysis. Honestly, you can get most of what you need to know to get you up to speed from the trailers.

That said, I do have some thoughts about 10 Cloverfield Lane.

  • Not enough can be said about the performances of John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. Goodman’s Howard is immensely creepy, but the question is “Is he weird guy next door who collects insects?” creepy or “Is he weird guy next door who collects insects and wants to sew himself a costume out of women’s skin?” creepy. Goodman balances his creepiness well and makes viewers uneasy about Howard’s next move throughout. Winstead’s Michelle is a survivor, constantly thinking about what to do next and probing Howard to see just how mental he is, alternatively hopeful and terrified. Gallagher’s Emmett is an underachieving redneck and the closest thing Howard has to a friend. Emmett’s casual reactions to Howard’s oddness help diffuse and temper Michelle’s fear and concern. The three together make for an unsteady, tense, volatile trio.
  • The original Cloverfield was an OK film, an attempt to use the found-footage style horror films have used effectively in more of a science fiction setting. But again, it was only OK. Bravo to JJ Abrams and director Dan Trachtenburg for upping the ante in the movie number two, going a different direction with the film, both stylistically and thematically. So many sequels are just a naked cash grab, a sucker’s bet. 10 Cloverfield Lane is the rare sequel that isn’t really a sequel – it’s more of a story told in the same Cloverfield-verse – and a film that surpasses its predecessor.
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5 thoughts on ‘The Purge: Anarchy’

I'm no Purge expert, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to see this on your drive home.

I’m no Purge expert, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see this on your drive home.

1) The Purge: Anarchy was a pretty good film up until the end. It wasn’t so much the horror movie the original was, more of a suspense/thriller kind of flick. The pacing was great, the action was solid. Where it really excels is the totality of the environment. The random gangs of toughs in disturbing masks and costumes, a burning bus rolling by in the background, the constant clock and status updates by the media, etc. The scene is marvelously set. If you’re looking for a fun time that doesn’t involve much thinking, Anarchy is a good choice.

2) Every time I see Michael Kenneth Williams, revolutionary Carmelo Johns in Anarchy, I’m waiting for him to say, “Omar coming!” In this flick, that would have actually worked. (And if you don’t understand this reference, that means you’ve never seen The Wire. I feel sorry for you.)

3) Instead of “Anarchy,” this sequel’s title could have instead included “Fuck the 1%.” Anarchy does one thing many great movies do: Establishes its theme, builds it into the DNA of the film. Here, the (largely) white and rich live protected and prey on the weak, poor and non-Caucasians. The elite are usually safe during the Purge because they can afford to be. Those of color, the disabled, the elderly, they pay the price during the Purge. It really holds a mirror up to modern society, just how uncaring those of the privileged class are, how all human life is not considered equal, how the “capitalist” system we have reinforces and protects these prejudices and injustices, how religion is used to justify all of this madness. Beyond its setting, this is what Purge: Anarchy does best.

Our heroes, hoping to make it a few more hours without getting shot, stabbed, burned or raped.

Our heroes, hoping to make it a few more hours without getting shot, stabbed, burned or raped.

4) The weakness of Anarchy is its characters. Our main badass Sergeant and the mother-daughter duo of Cali and Eva are solid, especially Sergeant, played by Frank Grillo.. However, Shane (the first time I’ve seen Matt Guilford since he was QB 1 on Friday Night Lights) and Liz are largely … unimportant. Their storyline really adds nothing to the plot. There’s not enough there to care about whether they live or die. Shane and Liz mostly seem to be there because they are the most likely to die so that the more interesting, developed characters can survive. The sacrifice of Cali’s grandfather early adds another aspect to the insanity that develops in the world of the Purge, but it could have been excised with little concern. Big Daddy isn’t around enough to be as menacing as he might have been. And so on.

5) I would argue that Anarchy is better than its predecessor. The original has a great set-up, but gets stupid in a hurry. The ending redeems it a bit. The problem is that we are supposed to believe the family in the original is living in inpenetrable castle, being that the dad is the top salemsan at the best home secuity company in the country. And what does it take to break into such an imposing fortress? A redneck with a pickup truck. From there, the movie devolves into dark rooms with poorly armed prey waiting for someone to jump out at them. Just awful, and a waste of the promising Purge premise. Purge: Anarchy still doesn’t live up to its premise. However, it shows the larger Purge world, giving viewers a more complete picture of this horrible night. It’s also a serviceable action flick that generally moves fast enough that when things get dumb, there’s no time to contemplate it as the next threat is fast approaching.

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Trashy title + Trashy cover = Very interesting book

An interesting book wrapped in a less-than-classy cover.

An interesting book wrapped in a less-than-classy cover.

“First. Don’t judge the book by this cover. Second. Don’t judge it by its title. The story is not cheesy or corny.” – From the blog Find a Girl Who Reads

Paula over at Find a Girl Who Reads is the one who turned me on to this book with her review, linked above. The premise of Kiss Me First is very Hitchcockian: A mysterious man approaches a socially awkward, sheltered young woman named Leila with an idea. There’s a miserable woman, Tess, who wants to commit suicide, but doesn’t want to leave her friends and family sad and hurting. So Leila will become Tessa on all social media, leaving the impression that Tess is alive but has moved a remote area where she can’t be easily reached. Tess will then leave this mortal plane, securing her body in place where it may never be found. Tess says that contact with what she believes to be largely uninterested family and friends will eventually tail off, and Leila will then be freed of her responsibility. Leila, a huge believer in personal responsibility as well as assisted suicide, is intrigued and agrees to do it.

No way that can go wrong, right?

The set-up is terrific, with Leila working to satisfy the curiosity of Tess’s friends and family as well as being concerned about being discovered. Slowly, Leila starts to lose her own identity within Tess’s, leading to other complications.

The problem is this: In the end, it kind of all just falls apart. On the one hand, that results in what is a pretty realistic ending. Recriminations, anger, hurt, sadness, it’s all there and it plays out in a grounded, well thought-out way. On the other hand, the realistic ending isn’t all that exciting after a terrific, suspenseful buildup. As the plan falls apart, the fallout seems all too quick and less than interesting.

Despite my mild disappointment in the wrap-up, I’d definitely recommend the book. It’s a clever piece of writing, and while Leila is often cringe-worthy in any sort of social context, because of her sincerity and naiveté, it’s hard not to root for her and hope that she walks away from this mad situation unscathed.

So thank you, Paula, for the recommendation. This is my way of passing it along.

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