ON DVD & Blu-Ray: October 22, 2013

There is a difference between a film that meets the rules of its genre and one that is able to transcend them. What director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) does in The Conjuring is not to approach the film as if it were a horror film, but more a serious drama about a family in crisis. Wan doesn't necessarily forget, but in a way uses the archetypes that make up the average horror movie in smaller ways, at least for the first act of the film, to imply what may or may not happen later. In setting up the expository information Wan is also creating his mood, while giving us the tools to develop relationships with these people. He isn't simply going about setting up scares here and there that ultimately add up to nothing, but he is luring us in and making it unavoidable that we become invested in these characters that will ultimately undergo a life altering experience in the latter part of the film. What The Conjuring also does is to not look at itself as some kind of joke or take its material too lightly. It firmly believes everything it has to offer and doesn't intend to be anything but sincere about the subject matter. If it were to take on a nature of laughing at the Perron family or a sense of doubt in the main cast that is firmly planted in the conflict from the beginning it would lose all credibility immediately. A deal where if they don't take it seriously, why should we? The film does take itself seriously though and that is meant in the best of ways as it consistently keeps the tone and intensity any good scary movie needs to help convince the audience that what is going on on screen is as real and threatening as the mysterious sounds they might hear in the middle of the night and dismiss as nothing more than the wind knocking something against the window. It is all about atmosphere and mystery with today's horror audiences as most have grown accustomed to what kind of scares most horror films will throw at you. Wan uses those same kind of scares, but he executes them in a manner that is much more effective, much more chilling, and on the most important of levels, much more emotional. Full review here. B

Going into a movie like The Internship you already know what you're going to get and if you have convinced yourself of what this will be and have set your expectations to a certain level then this PG-13 comedy of misfits will have you more impressed than those initial standards might have inclined you to believe. I personally am a big fan of the people involved here and would have welcomed a Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunion much sooner after their 2005 runaway hit Wedding Crashers, but instead of going for the easy way out and continuing to team up with one another these guys ultimately decided to stray from their core comedy group altogether. Sure, Vaughn made a few with his little crew of friends that include Jason Bateman, Peter Billingsly, and Jon Favreau, but he also made one too many Christmas-themed movies and didn't fully take advantage of the opportunity that Crashers afforded him. Wilson has had similar troubles as of late not starring as a leading man in a genuine hit since 2008's Marley & Me. He has gained more credibility after the success of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, but his mainstream efforts like Hall Pass and The Big Year didn't do much to keep his name strong in the genre he became most notable for. Granted we are no longer in the first five years of the new millennium and efforts like Old School, Zoolander, Starsky & Hutch, and Dodgeball are now relegated to a time long past, but nonetheless I've always enjoyed watching these guys individually and the one time they teamed up prior will forever be a point of nostalgia, so I was more than open and willing to give The Internship a fair shot. Maybe it was because the trailers weren't too impressive, maybe because I expected it to receive those lukewarm reviews, or maybe because I finally admitted to myself these guys are getting older and a time will come when they no longer make broad comedies and that this may in fact be the nail in the coffin, but whatever it was I came out more pleased with the film than I ever expected. Maybe these guys have a little more to give after all. Full review here. C+

Writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash who penned The Descendants together in 2011 have teamed up once again to both write and direct their first feature which has come to be known as The Way, Way Back. It isn't easy to tell early on what the appeal of this film might be. It is slow to start and almost irritating the way in which each character is so adherent to the dominating characteristics given to them by the script. Whether it be Steve Carell's prickly dirtbag Trent or our protagonist Duncan (Liam James) who not only doesn't stand up to his moms new boyfriend, but doesn't seem willing to try and talk or develop relationships with those who have no ulterior motives. He somehow manages to come across several people willing to open up to him and start a conversation, but it's clear he is simply an awkward kid in his early teenage years reeling from the realization of what a divorce brings with it and is finding it hard to fit in with people who seem to be anything but other objects who will do nothing but eventually let him down as his parents have done. The key to understanding what The Way, Way Back is hoping to achieve is to feel some kind of empathy with Duncan. Like George Clooney's Matt King in The Descendants Duncan is coming to terms with a kind of tragedy and trying to learn from it, eventually discovering that he's been missing out on a lot in life and that it's now time to make up for lost time and go on from this point with a different perspective with hopes of being who he wants to be and not what others necessarily expect from him. It is a classic coming-of-age story we've seen countless times before, but seeing as each and every single person goes through this process (to some degree) it is a story we can all latch onto. How well the story is executed is what makes trying to capture nostalgia on screen successful or not and The Way, Way Back just happens to be very well executed. Full review here. B+

I can remember in 2004 when there seemed to be an unsettling amount of nervousness and excitement leading up to the premiere of Before Sunset. I was seventeen at the time and had not become as well acquainted with indie films or smaller, art house projects that were gaining recognition which in turn meant I had not seen the original film, 1995's Before Sunrise, that spawned this follow-up nine years later. Even though I heard much about Before Sunset that year and recognized Ethan Hawke from countless other movies I never made it around to seeing what all the fuss was about. I still had not at the beginning of this year and then I began to hear that same level of unique excitement that started to build when it was rumored that director Richard Linklater and both Hawke and co-star Julie Delpy were hard at work scouting locations for a third installment in their relationship evaluation trilogy. As it turned out the stars and director weren't simply looking for locations, but had indeed shot the third installment and as I now try to expose myself to as many facets of film as possible I felt a responsibility to catch up on what I was missing and what everyone else was talking about. This led to an experience where I came to know Hawke's Jesse and Delpy's Celine over a matter of two decades in less than a few weeks. It was at some level unnerving as you can literally see the way in which people age and relationships change, while it isn't until this latest installment, Before Midnight, that we get to see the effects of these characters having been in a relationship for some time now. The fact this film would exist might confirm what eventually happened after the cliffhanger at the end of Before Sunset as I assume Linklater and his crew would realize they couldn't repeat themselves by simply having Jesse and Celine meet up for a few hours and catch up with one another again. Lucky for us, this is true in that Jesse never caught that plane and instead stayed and started a family with Celine which has now evolved into a much more recognizable relationship than the type of fantasy, star-crossed lovers ordeal the first two films presented. I understand the appeal of these films and have truly come to feel as if I know these people, which is good considering the content of the conversations they have this time around. Full review here. A

Only God Forgives is something of an unexpected twist on the artistic yet undeniably entertaining quality of the previous collaboration between director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling. That the twist is more on the artistic aspect while almost completely dismissing the entertainment value is more of the unexpected turn. I have yet to dig further into Refn's filmography than Drive and his 2008 feature Bronson, but am interested to see how Valhalla Rising ties into the clear influence his previous work has played in the development of this latest picture. While I wasn't sure what exactly to expect from Only God Forgives given it was booed at its Cannes premiere yet won top prize at the Sydney Film Festival. Clearly these reactions are just as subjective as anything I'm writing here, but the divisive nature of the reception the film is receiving does stand to say something for the effect it is having on people. With that question in mind, that loaded curiosity of what made this film so appealing to some and completely pointless to others I walked into the theater with an open mind and willingness to accept whatever Refn might be trying to say, even if it was trying too hard or putting all of its effort in unexpected areas. Walking out of the film though if anything was clear it was that Refn had done exactly what he wanted to do and had been completely uncompromising in meeting his vision for this product. Through all of the technical aspects that are so expertly fashioned though, is there anything to see? Are there any characters here that we are made to care about? What is it about this film that should make us like it? The answer is nothing and Refn doesn't care because he is doing things how he wants them done. He is completely in your face with the violence while being reserved when it comes to emotional weight. There isn't an ounce of humanity in the majority of the characters yet surprisingly, as the credits began to roll, I was more satisfied than I anticipated halfway through the film. This is a mixed bag that doesn't reach the heights its aspirations were clearly aiming for, but it is a very distinct film and like its director, isn't apologizing for what it wants to be. Full review here. C

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