The IMDb page for Paranormal Activity 2 says its popularity rose 666% in the last week, and I’m certain the number isn’t a coincidence. The original Paranormal Activity relied on word-of-mouth and viral campaigning, and this similarly freaky detail highlights the producer’s desire to provoke scares. By not making an off-the-wall misfire like Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, PA2 deftly expands the universe of its predecessor. Succeeding more as an audience experience than a horror film, PA2 delivers exactly what it promises. It may lack the original’s inventiveness, but its gotcha scares are well-earned.
Charles Ferguson is the policy wonk of the documentary film world. A self-made millionaire with a PhD in political science, Ferguson made his debut with No End in Sight, a persuasively insightful examination of the faulty intelligence that led the United States into war with Iraq. His approach is more analytical than similar filmmakers. With compelling interviews and data, the Oscar-nominated No End in Sight cites specific problems and details their implications. Ferguson’s follow-up is Inside Job, a scathing indictment of those responsible for the ongoing financial crisis. It articulates complex financial machinations in easily digestible terms, and its alarming conclusions make Inside Job one of the year’s most important movies. When I talked with Ferguson about his latest film, I was struck by the lucidity of his answers, as well as his quiet outrage over what he uncovered.
What event in particular inspired you to make this movie?
Lehman weekend, or should I say Lehman, Merrill Lynch, and AIG weekend? When three of the largest financial institutions in the world collapse simultaneously, people begin wondering whether they’re going to be able to get money out of the ATM. By that time, I already had conversations with many people about the subject. Two of my friends, both of whom are in the film, cogently warned me in 2007 about the oncoming crisis. And when it did occur, one of my first thoughts was, “Well, I’ve got to make a movie about this.”
Wikipedia lists the 1970s as “The Golden Age of Disaster Film.” Back then, it was customary for movies like The Poseidon Adventure and Airport 1975 to feature beloved actors who were past their box office prime. Roland Emmerich notwithstanding, disaster movies are not as popular as they once were. In their place, this decade might be the golden age of spy thrillers, and if it is, Robert Schwentke’s Red fits the mold perfectly. Based on Warren Ellis’ comic books and featuring a well-known supporting cast that’s not known for their forays into action, Red takes a decades-old formula and updates it for the explosion lover in us all.
Edward Norton has made a career of playing complex characters. From Primal Fear to Leaves of Grass, his roles have been more interesting than those of the average leading man. Norton’s latest is Stone, an engaging drama from Angus MacLachlan, the guy who brought you the underrated Junebug. Norton plays the titular character, a convicted arsonist who undergoes an unusual spiritual awakening. Robert De Niro stars as Stone’s parole officer, and Milla Jovovich takes a dramatic turn as Stone’s promiscuous wife. Stone marks two reunions for Norton – he previously worked with De Niro in The Score, and director John Curran in The Painted Veil. In a panel interview, I had a chance to talk with Norton about his latest role.
What is the inspiration for your character’s bizarre way of speaking?
It’s a fusion of a couple people we met at a prison in Jackson, Michigan, which is north of Detroit. A lot of the guys up there are from Detroit, and the people we were interested in came out of the gangs/drug culture. John [Curran] and I spent a lot of time listening to their lingo and transferring it into the script. As for how my character sounded, it came from one guy who had a broken, gravelly voice. John and I both found him very hypnotic. John wanted Stone to feel the like the sort of person who, when you first meet him, is as far away from a deep spiritual experience as possible. That way you’re really challenged by what happens.
Midway through You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, the latest from Woody Allen, I wondered what an Allen-run TV series would be like. The prolific writer/director has clearly been obsessed with the same themes for decades, and he has a knack for revisiting the same character types. A season of television would give Allen more time to develop his unique perspective, and audiences might enjoy his writing over a longer arc. I had these thoughts because with his latest, Allen borrows heavily from previous efforts, and combining old material is more efficient than recycling it. An Allen-scripted TV show would certainly be more engaging than You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which is a half-effective hodgepodge of romantic entanglements. The familiarity of the plot and characters is pleasant, but like his other tepid movies, this one is for diehard fans only.
Somewhere between being drawn and quartered and falling off a mountain, being buried alive ranks high among the most horrific ways for me to die. The reason is its length. With impenetrable darkness and limited movement, there is no choice but to thrash impotently and wait for oxygen to run out. I have no idea precisely how long it would take, but if Rodrigo Cortés‘ Buried is any indication, the first ninety minutes would hardly be a picnic. With inventive direction and an effective performance by Ryan Reynolds, this thriller is involving first as a novelty and then as a relentless story of survival.