WHAT ELSE I'M WATCHING #3

So, this past weekend I became a dad for the first time and while I find it difficult to even draw my attention from my new little girl in my life to write this, the time inbetween feedings and poopy diapers is ripe with opportunity to watch movies and binge on television shows. For instance, last time within this column I told myself I would rectify the fact I'd never seen Robin Williams Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting and just yesterday saw it was now streaming on Netflix and was able to watch it throughout the day in bits and pieces. As for the film itself, after getting past how young Damon and both Affleck's look, I was struck by the conciseness of the dialogue with which they were able to boil down such specific streams of thought into perfect summations of understanding. Damon did a great job in conveying these difficult, mini-monologues that could have easily proved to be pompous or too neat to be dialogue, but the character he creates allows for this suspension of belief in that such a radical genius could exist. And of course there is Williams, who brings balance to the over-thinking yet content Will that is established in Damon's performance. Williams was always a force to be reckoned with, but as Sean Maguire he excels at being both the guy who our protagonist knows he can count on while keeping him in check. It is a difficult line to walk, but it is easy to see both why he won the Oscar and why that speech was so emotional. I haven't seen every Williams performance, but I have to imagine this one is near the top.

As one might suspect, the rest of my recent at-home movie watching has consisted of scary movies and other Haloween-themed entertainment that always serves to give us the feeling fall is finally in the air. Every Halloween season I try to watch another "classic" horror film I missed out on in my sheltered childhood where I likely wouldn't have seen any movies were it not for a couple of aunts who enjoyed the experience of going to the theater more than anyone else I knew. They were the ones who gave myself and my siblings full access to Hocus Pocus (which I finally upgraded to Blu-Ray this year and enjoyed in high definition). Typically, I like to watch one of the older horror classics that I'd failed to ever make time for in the past. Last year consisted of The Poltergiest and The People Under the Stairs. This year I didn't get around to as much as I would have liked given everything else that was going on while getting in as many new releases as possible-so the lone "classic" of the bunch was Fritz Kiersch's 1984 Children of the Corn adaptation. Based on a Stephen King short story the film tells the story of a young couple trapped in a remote town where a dangerous religious cult of children believe everyone over the age of 18 must be killed. Interesting idea? Yes. Good? Not really. Besides feeling cheap and dated the story doesn't ever seem to try and be cohesive instead the film is just proud of itself for getting made and being somewhat competent in its execution. The acting is horrible throughout, but mainly when it comes to the child actors who are overacting and hamming it up to the point it is more of a comedy than a horror flick. To say the least, it doesn't hold up well.    

Second up was actually a re-watch of the first three films in the Scream series. I hadn't seen them in a few years as the last time was when I caught up on all of them before seeing the fourth film in 2011. On the other side of things, besides being distinctly of there decade, these films hold up surprisingly well. The first especially for being nearly twenty years old with the basics of the genre and the actions of the teens (no matter how outdated the technology and soundtrack) still intact and relevant to an audience today. Each film is still funny and still packs some genuine scares which is what matters and what made these movies so successful in that they knew what they were and yet could still operate as effective genre pieces. This, of course, grew less true from the first to the second and the second to the third films, but there still remains a level of cleverness to each. It's still easy to see how much better the first one is than the other two while both sequels have their ups and downs. I didn't re-watch the fourth film (at least not yet), but not because I didn't enjoy it or don't care for it, but because my brother and sister-in-law borrowed my blu-ray collection because they hadn't seen any of them and I suggested it was about time! I hear Scream 4 will soon be streaming on Netflix though as the original three already are and if you haven't seen any of them in a while they are definitely worth a trip down memory lane and more than worthy of a marathon next Halloween if you've never laid your eyes on any of them before.



Other scary movies tackled this Halloween include The Quiet Ones from earlier this year starring Jared Harris and Sam Claflin in an interesting story of possession with a unique approach, but poor execution. I'd seen bits and pieces of The Ruins when it came out just before the legendary summer season of 2008, but never finished it. The wife kept reiterating how much she remembered liking the film at the time and so when we found it for cheap at the local Hastings we couldn't resist. I enjoyed the film for it's directness if not the over-reliance on gross gags more popular just a few short years ago. There was no wasted time with backstory or exposition, but rather just a calculated and violent burn through to the final frame. On Halloween night I enjoyed what is essentially The Goonies with monsters in 1987's The Monster Squad and 2001's Frailty starring Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey. While I wish I would have experienced Monster Squad earlier in my life so that I might have more appreciation for it now, it was fine for what it was and something I could see myself watching again over the years. Frailty, on the other hand, was more disturbing than it was scary though you could most definitely classify it as frightening. There is a simplicity to its stream of thought that leads to millions of other questions and debates which wraps you up in its characters conflict of interests. The performances are great, but it is the pacing and the tension that sells it to an uninitiated audience that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Needless to say, I really dug everything about it.

Anything else? Besides trying to finish How I Met Your Mother (we finally made it to season nine and I suspect we will finish over the next week inbetween feedings and during naps), watching the second season of Arrow, the fourth season of the The Walking Dead, keeping up with Gotham on Hulu and always having what feels like few more season three New Girl episodes to finish up I'd say that's it. Of course, after we finish HIMYM there will be a huge void to fill which is where steam will pick up on the latest from The Walking Dead, but those seasons usually go by so fast when you binge watch that I imagine we'll have found a new show (either nearing the end of its run or already done) to embark upon by the next installment of this column. That is all for now though. If you have any suggestions for shows to pick up after our current slate is washed clean be sure to leave them in the comments section and, as always, let me know what else you've been watching as well.