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When I saw there was a critically acclaimed documentary about The Shining, I purposefully read nothing about it so I could come to it fresh. Well, that was a mistake, because Room 237 has very little to do with the making of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece. Instead, it fleshes out the interpretations of the film by a bunch of lunatics. To them, The Shining is about the genocide of the American Indian, or the actual Holocaust, or it contains hundreds of subliminal sexual images, haunted demons sexually attracted to humans, feeding off of them. Or it is about impossible interior design, or the real history of the state of Colorado, or when Barry Nelson meets Jack Nicholson, the file folder at his crotch level is really a boner.

I’m sure there are other interpretations, but I turned this stupid documentary off before getting to all of them. An utter disappointment, a colossal waste of time and shit sound to boot.


John Woo is an action hack, a Chinese director of minor renown who came to America and never looked back, making several big concept explosion-fests, like Broken Arrow, Mission Impossible II, Windtalkers (a Pacific theater World War II film that looks as if it was filmed in the Hollywood Hills) and Paycheck, which was once thought to be the coda to Ben Affleck’s career. You can only lose people so much money before you get benched, and Woo’s Windtalker‘s had a worldwide gross of $70 million on a budget of $115 million. Paycheck merely broke even domestically and appears to have signalled the end of the line for Woo.

But Woo left something for us, a ridiculous, giddy gem, to show that he had come to America and contributed. Face/Off stars Nicholas Cage as master terrorist Castor Troy. John Travolta is his Javert, Agent Sean Archer. Archer catches Troy, and puts him in a coma, which is fair play given that Troy murdered Archer’s young son. But Troy planted a bomb somewhere in LA before sleeping his deep sleep, and only Troy’s brother Pollox (Alessandra Nivola) knows the location of the bomb.

What to do?

Well, you surgically remove the face of Castor Troy, put it on Sean Archer, Archer goes into the super-max prison where Pollox is housed and elicits the whereabouts of the explosive. Duh.

Except, when Archer is in prison with Troy’s face, Troy wakes up from his coma, forces the doctors to give him Archer’s face, kills everyone who knows about the whole “face/off” plan, keeps Archer in prison, and then reinstates “date night” with Archer’s wife (Joan Allen).

Furious, Archer escapes prison, and then . . . slo-motion doves:

This is an absurd, dizzying, very funny movie, tailor-made for two of the greatest over-actors of our generation. Great film. Road House great.

This is certainly the summer of James Wan. The Conjuring cost $20 million and has thus far grossed $270 million worldwide, and Insidious 2 cost $5 million and opened at $41 million this weekend.

The Conjuring is a vastly superior film, but Insidious 2 is not altogether bad. It starts off halting and awkward, and its fealty to following up on Insidious is both admirable and clunky. We pick up on the story right after Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) has returned from The Further, having saved his son in the process.  As we learn at the end of the first film, however, it is not Wilson, but someone much more sinister who returned in his guise. The film then moves on three tracks – Wilson, in the house, a threat to his wife (Rose Byrne) and kids; his mother (Barbara Hershey) and her investigators, trying to identify the entity that has taken Wilson; and Wilson himself, stuck in The Further, helpless. This all takes some time to queue up, and the speed of it all makes the picture stilted. In particular, poor Byrne is reduced to actually having to try and convince Wilson of the continuation of the terror, and his “Oh, honey, you just have to ignore the evil!” rejoinders are unintentionally funny.

But once it gets rolling, the film regains its balance, delivering some very good scares along the way, and Wan’s weaving of Wilson’s childhood, the first picture and the events we are witnessing is pretty skillful.  To Wan’s credit, those scares remain bloodless and gore-free (although the film is too dimly lit).

The World’s End, the third installment of Director/Writer Edward Wright and Writer/Lead Simon Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, melds their two prior comedies. There is the apocalyptic vision of Shaun of the Dead, as a troupe of 40-something high school mates (led by Pegg) take another shot at an epic pub crawl, only to learn that their pastoral hometown as been infiltrated, not by zombies, but by robots. There is also the town itself, which has become a sterile, cookie-cutter environment, not by the hand of the secret community beautification cult of Sandford, as in Hot Fuzz, but by aliens. All three films feature the great buddy tandem of Pegg and Nick Frost, Wright’s Abbott and Costello, but in The World’s End, Frost is the responsible member of the duo (a barrister, if you can believe it), until Pegg’s jabbering and the tenacity of the robots transform him into an unstoppable robot-killing machine.

These are great joy ride films, with inspired action sequences punctuated by some very funny lines. Forced to choose, I’d have to put Hot Fuzz at the top, if only for the best movie shootout ever, the beginning of which is below:

Backstory: after The Monster and Will Will Kill, the film world has been anticipating Will Larroca’s third feature, House of Blood.  I can report that principal photography began today.

But that’s not the news.  Apparently, Larroca had been secretly working in Europe over the summer . . . on a psychedelic musical: The Hugginns Movie.  He was not happy at all with the results, shelved the entire project and has been litigating to have his name taken off of it.  Still, a copy has now been made public and is setting up roots on the Internet.

Two words: mind blown.  I don’t understand Larroca’s objections, and I know auteurs can be idiosyncratic, but if he deems this a failure, I can’t wait for the film he deems worthy.