Archive for the ‘1408’ Category

324 – 1408

June 23, 2007

Prepare to be shocked! 1408, the story of a truly haunted hotel room, is electric and terrifying and not a little bit unsettling.

John Cusack stars as Mike Enslin, a writer who specializes in debunking haunted-whatever myths. He’s stayed in hotels and inns and B&Bs all across the country and has not, he says, ever seen evidence of paranormal behavior. Even so, he’s managed to make a somewhat modest living writing about his experiences. He’s a cynic, as most writers are, but Enslin is not only skeptical about things, he outright doesn’t believe in anything, owing in no small part to an earlier tragedy in his life.

And then one day he finds a postcard in his mail from the Dolphin Hotel in New York. There’s but one sentence on the back: “Don’t go into Room 1408.” Enslin’s research then shows that numerous people have died in that particular hotel room – people jumping to their deaths, people slashing their own throats, gouging their own eyes, and so on. Pretty creepy stuff. But since that’s sort of par for the course in Enslin’s line of work, he doesn’t think much of it and manages to wrangle a reservation in the infamous room.

The hotel’s manager, Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) tries desperately to talk Enslin out of staying in the room overnight. No one lasts more than an hour, he warns. Olin points out that many people have died in 1408 of natural causes, too – bringing the death toll to 56. Olin even offers Enslin a rare bottle of booze and the chance to read up on the history of the room, anything to keep Enslin from actually going into the room. He fails.

And who could blame Enslin for being a wee bit skeptical that 1408 is anything to be scared of? He’s been in so many places just like the Dolphin, from seedy motels to high-rise palaces, and he’s never seen anything all that terrifying, and certainly nothing that couldn’t be explained away easily enough. And then he steps into 1408, and all hell breaks loose.

It appears to be such an ordinary room, a fact that Enslin notes into his dictaphone. But then it gets hot, and the window slams shut on his fingers, and he hears a baby crying, and most importantly, the digital clock radio seems to be counting down from one hour – even after he forcibly yanks it from the wall outlet. Before you know it, ghosts from his own past are appearing in his room alongside the ghosts of those who’d died there themselves.

The greatest part about all of this is that while Enslin’s mind is being tortured, smacked around like a tetherball hooked to a pole of sanity, we’re suffering right along with him. We jump when he jumps – and not before he jumps. He feel like screaming just as he does. We’re right there with him through ever shiver, every shudder, every wide-eyed gulp of terror. Enslin isn’t merely frazzled, he’s undone. Even he can’t explain the happenings inside 1408 as creaky floorboards or bad wiring. The horror in the room is personal, reducing even the cockiest skeptic into a pile of blubbering goo.

Cusack, whom I think is one of the finest actors of his generation, is absolutely aces. His idiom is that he’s an Everyman, not someone to whom superhuman powers have been conveyed. Throw another actor into the movie, and you’d expect him to grit his teeth and wipe out the unseen enemies with a blowtorch and some grenades, but not Cusack. Cusack’s Enslin doesn’t know how to deal with the psychological warfare, because neither would we.

That ripping sound you just heard? It was your sanity departing right after Enslin’s.

***1/2

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Summer Movie Preview, Part I

May 18, 2007

Back when I worked video retail, the big question we got every day was “What’s in that’s new that’s good?” Kind of a vague, open-ended question; how do I know that what I think is good is what you think is good? I don’t. But customers always seem to believe that the doofus behind the counter somehow is an expert. This might make sense in doctor’s offices and auto shops, but the doofus behind the video-store counter doesn’t know any more than you do.

Plus, of course, movies are highly subjective. I didn’t like Gosford Park but maybe you, dear customer, would. And so on. Everyone has different tastes, right?

It’s time to take a look at some upcoming movies (theater division). Now, when I review movies, I really try to target the review to as many people as possible, so I don’t just take the attitude of, “Well, I hate costume dramas, so I’m gonna give this one a bad rating.” That’s not fair, is it? No, it is not. I try to think, “what would most people find appealing about this movie? What would they dislike?”

Anyway. Now you know the motivation and angle. Let’s see what’s coming up.

Shrek the Third (May 18): Finally, the green guy is back. I think they’ve been promising a third Shrek movie for… well, since before the second one, back in 2004. And there’s a rumor that a fourth one is on the way as well. See, I like Shrek. I like the potshots that the movies take at Disney. I like the gross humor. I think the three leads (Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz) are perfectly suited to their roles. So I’m looking forward to this one, even if it’s not as good as the first two.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (May 25): Okay, for this one I’m a little more skittish. Yes, I’m looking forward to it, and yes, I want to see it in the theater, but… is it played out? It’s going to be a bit longer (168 minutes). I wonder if it’ll fall into the trap of having its leads rush from Action Scene to Action Scene, which it kind of sort of did in the last movie in the series. But at least that one had the bonus of a good twist at the end that led to this inevitable third film. So color me skeptical – I hope it’s as good as one of the first two. Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, and the emaciated Keira Knightley return. (Knightley is a pretty face and a good actress, but boy does she look too skinny. She looks positively little-boyish.)

Bug (May 25): Ah, finally, a nonblockbuster. Michael Shannon plays a war vet, and Ashley Judd plays an agoraphobe. They’re holed up in a seedy motel, and they have insect issues. Is it all in their minds? Hells, no! Or maybe. Good to see Judd not playing some plucky damsel in distress for a change. William Friedkin is your director; maybe he has another hit here.

Mr. Brooks (June 1): Kevin Costner is a serial killer, and Demi Moore is the dick out to capture him! Why, it’s like they’re playing against type! Cmon, if Moore wasn’t gonna cut it as a stripper, what makes us think she’ll be a good detective? (Hint: only if she gets nekkid.) Costner, though… he might work in this role, because it’s one of those cold, emotionless, no-range-required roles that more or less define him. So yeah, it’s something new for him, but it’s not sea-change new. He’s a bad guy, not a good guy, so that’ll take some acting strength, but I think he’ll be okay. William Hurt’s in it, too. I bet he plays a guy who’s unhinged on the inside but normal on the outside.

Rise: Blood Hunter (June 1): What is it with Lucy Liu and stupid titles (Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever)? But this IS Lucy Liu, so I’m already inclined to watch. (Lucy, if you’re reading this, I’m available!) Liu plays a woman who wakes up in a morgue and finds out she’s undead. Man, I hate those kind of mornings. Anyway, she vows revenge on those who hath wronged her. Would most of us go after the people who killed us, or would we just be pissed that we weren’t, you know, actually dead? Liu doesn’t often get good scripts, but when she gets ’em, she’s good. This one’s written by the guy who wrote Snakes on a Plane, though, so..

Surf’s Up (June 8): This looks bad, so it’ll probably make a lot of money. Why wouldn’t it? It’s animated, and it has penguins, and we all know how much people love the penguins. But cmon, surfing penguins? Plus the one guy on the box looks like the guru guy voiced by Robin Williams in Happy Feet. I mean, exactly the same. I don’t think I’ll catch this wave. (See what I did there? I made a bad pun.)

Ocean’s Thirteen (June 8): George Clooney is making this one, he says, to make up for the second one, which was mostly bad. Just about everyone returns, but there’s a lack of estrogen – no Julia Roberts, no Catherine Zeta-Jones. Wait, there’s Ellen Barkin. Like I said, a lack of estrogen, but I kid. Al Pacino’s in it; wonder if he’ll be hammy? There’s also apparently a rumor that Angelina Jolie will be in it. The rumor’s from April 2006. The movie will be released in a few weeks. So I dunno what that means, but if Jolie appears it can only be a good thing. As for the plot, someone doublecrosses Reuben (Elliot Gould), so the gang has to avenge him. The movie has to be better than the uneven second one, but I hope the added cast members aren’t a mere novelty.

Hostel: Part II (June 8): Death and dismemberment are back, baby, only this time it’s three chicks instead of three dudes. Okay, whatever. On the one hand, I’m glad one of them isn’t Paris Hilton (as rumored), but on the other hand it would have been sweet to see her killed. We do get Heather Matarazzo, Lauren German, and Bijou Phillips. (I’m resisting making a Matinee at the Bijou joke, because it’s too easy and younger people wouldn’t get it, anyway.) The three get lured to a hostel, and then bad things happen. With any luck, this will be on par with the first one; expect a lot of gore and torture and creative deaths.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (June 15): Did you see the first F4 movie? No? Did anyone? No, wait, someone must have. I wonder if it was all fanboys trying to see Jessica Alba’s ass. Anyway, the four leads return, which I’m ambivalent about, because really, this isn’t a movie that focuses on character development; it’s really just about blowing crap up. In this one, the Four face off against a new threat, the Silver Surfer, played by a hologram. I’m no comics dude, but I always thought the Surfer was a good guy, but apparently I’m wrong. The movie already feels desperate, as if the studio is just trying really really hard to get some kind of franchise. I mean, hey, other comics movies do well, so let’s flog the F4 horse. My bet is that there’ll be a third movie, but it’ll be about one of the villains, or the Silver Surfer, and perhaps the original cast won’t even be in it.

Nancy Drew (June 15): I’m not in the target audience for this movie, and I don’t intend to see it, but I kind of liked the concept. Nancy Drew is a girl detective, much on the order of the Hardy Boys, but even younger. This movie is set in the present day, but Nancy is a throwback, an anachronism; she dresses and behaves as if it’s 1940. (At least that’s what I gleaned from the trailer.) So there’s that little hook thrown in for flava. Apparently this Nancy is a bit younger than the one in the books, but since most girls of today probably haven’t yet read the books, I don’t think it’s a huge problem. This looks like a cute, quiet hit.

Evan Almighty (June 22): All right! Morgan Freeman as God. This time, he tells now-Congressman Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell) to build an ark. Oh, yeah, like THAT’LL happen. Now, though, we’ll see if a movie of this stripe can survive without the strong personality of a Jim Carrey; Carrell is more of a reactor than a actor at times. In 40 Year Old Virgin, he merely reacted to the chaos around him – which was funny, don’t get me wrong, but here he might find it a little tougher, with less comic support. And the movie apparently cost a lot to make, thus upping the pressure.

1408 (June 22): Another Stephen King adaptation, and it’s been a while since they’ve been any good. Come to think of it, they’re almost never any good, but the ones that are good are choice indeed. Here’s hoping this fits in the latter category, and it should, given that Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack, merely two of the awesomest actors ever, star. It’s about a paranormal investigator who enters the titular hotel room, which is supposed to be totally haunted. I love closed-room mystery horror freakouts, so I’m all for this one.

Live Free or Die Hard (June 27): Everyone loved Die Hard. Everyone loved Die Hard 2. Die Hard 3, not so much, so I dunno what to make of this fourth one, ten YEARS after the last one. John McClane’s way too old for this crap. Still, I like Bruce Willis in most about everything. I just hope it doesn’t really, really suck.

Ratatouille (June 29): Uh, yeah. A Pixar movie about rats. I didn’t see Flushed Away, but I have the same reaction – huh? Wha? Okay, sure, it has the pedigree of Brad Bird directing, and he’s the guy who did The Incredibles (I was one of a few who didn’t think it was awesome), but still… rats. Animated rats. Whoopdedoo.

Okay, this is getting long, and I have actual work to do. (I know!) Therefore I’ll do a part 2 later. Maybe today, maybe next week, maybe next month.