Saturday, December 29, 2007

Child’s Play: “Atonement” is a Grand Achievement That Isn’t Just For British Eyes Only

If you know me at all, you’ll be aware that I am the last person to go see a British period piece. Yuck city. “Sense and Sensibility?” Yawn. “The English Patient?” Oh please. “Gosford Park?” Zzzz. So it was with overwhelming surprise and delight that I found Joe Wright’s (whose previous effort was the very British Jane Austen saga “Pride and Prejudice”) wartime drama “Atonement” to be completely delightful. It has interesting characters, suburb direction, a great story and wonderful technical achievements. Anyone wondering whether they should just skip this because of the English accents is going to be missing out on one of the best dramas of the year.

Most surprising of all in “Atonement” is the shockingly amazing performance of little Saoirse Ronan, who commands the screen and nearly makes as good a performance as Helen Mirren in The Queen. She takes a character that is almost immediately unlikable and gives her a soul that you simply can’t look away from. Ronan is Briony, she’s a 13 year old girl who lives the rich life in the English countryside circa the early 1940s. She’s an intelligent young girl, since she writes plays for her and her cousins to act in for fun, but she’s still just a little girl. Certain circumstances lead her to accuse her older sister Cecelia’s (Keira Knightly) gardener lover Robbie (James McAvoy) of something very heinous. This sends McAvoy away to prison and eventually to fight in World War II. These are two lovers that just can’t be together and it’s all because of a little girl’s simple misunderstanding.

Of course, we assume it’s a misunderstanding, but remember I said Briony isn’t a stupid girl. She’s a friggin’ playwright for God’s sake! Perhaps it’s a little bit of jealously between her and her sister that causes this mess or perhaps it’s simply the innocence of being a child. Who knows really. But what’s so special here is the way the screenplay let’s us see events from multiple points of view. We see what goes on between Cecelia and Robbie from Briony’s point of view. We interpret it as a child but then we see what really happens and we’re back to being adults. This is a movie that hinges on an important and influential role and Ronan nails it (as do Romola Garai as Briony at age 18 and Vanessa Redgrave who is so memorable in nearly two scenes as an elderly Briony still seeking atonement for the actions of her childhood).

What a technical achievement this film really is. Director Wright employs a nearly six minute tracking shot when Robbie goes to war that is simply stunning. There are too many beautiful shots to even mention. Each scene is a portrait of the time. And each actor is terrific in reflecting that time period. And probably my favorite of all is Dario Marianelli’s terrific music, which incorporates the sounds of a typewriter into his score. The pounding of keys goes perfectly with Briony’s rigid movements. This is “Mickey Mousing” at it’s best and most complex.

“Atonement” is a film that has garnered a lot of Oscar talk, it’s certainly deserving of whatever amount of nominations it receives, although it’s steam has slowed down some over the past couple weeks. This is a film that seems like it was made to win awards, but nothing is further than the truth. It’s a film that will surprise you with how good it really is and for a British period piece set in war torn England that’s certainly saying a lot from me. GRADE: A

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Old Man and the Seed: Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman Put Their Father in a Home in “The Savages”

Perhaps it’s asking too much for a movie to be much more biting even though it contains a scene in which an elderly man, who is pissed off, spreads his feces all over a bathroom wall. This old man is Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco), his long time lover has passed away and the caretaker can no longer take care of him because the aged couple wasn’t married. So estranged son and daughter Jon and Wendy (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) are contacted and they go about finding a nursing home for the father, while the siblings bark at each other. The only real selling point here is to see the always good Linney and Hoffman go at it. Otherwise, we have a mostly uninteresting story of depressive state of growing old and no longer being able to care of oneself.

Director Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills) paints a portrait of family angst that doesn’t settle for cheap sentimentality. Those expecting a tear jerking cheese-fest should most definitely step away, however, could it have possibly hurt to include something in these characters that’s slightly relatable? We can see what a pain in the ass dealing with an elderly person can be and how sad it could be if it was your own parent, but the whole process isn’t exactly interesting or captivating. There’s nothing really too surprising or shocking to be found. The film is called “The Savages” but I didn’t really find it to bee too savage. It wasn’t as dark as I would have predicted, yet it’s not exactly a fairy tale.

I believe the film is being billed as a comedy, although it definite has a more dramatic tone to it. Linney’s character is caught in an affair with a married man and Hoffman’s is a drama professor. These are intelligent people, but I found their treatment of their father to be surprising. I’d expect that kind of behavior from someone who was having an affair, but as a man with a doctorate, Hoffman is surprisingly cold. I guess what I’m saying is that I’d almost wish these siblings were white trash who didn’t really know better and placed their father in a crummy home and hilarity ensues. The film just really isn’t all that captivating and I could really care less about anything going on.

The film is the second film of this year to deal with old age. The previous effort is Sarah Polley’s “Away From Her” which deals with a woman who begins having signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. That film, while not a comedy, also dealt with aging in a not-too-sappy way, and is a much better film about life without the sappiness of say, “The Notebook.” “The Savages” can be recommended for it’s acting, although if you want to watch a funny, cranky old man I would suggest watching Oscar winner Alan Arkin in last year’s “Little Miss Sunshine.” GRADE: C+

Saturday, December 22, 2007

She’s Having a Baby: Ellen Page is Knocked Up in the Hilariously Heartfelt “Juno”

What is it with pregnant women in movies? First “Waitress” makes a big splash at Sundance, then the Judd Apatow hit “Knocked Up” was a summer smash, and now we have “Juno,” a cute tale of an acid-tongued teen girl who gets impregnated by her sweet best friend. Perhaps it’s the notion that women can be just as funny as men and while growing a human being inside them as well. Having said that “Juno” is probably the sweetest and most funny comedy of the year. You want to reach out and grab the movie. Yeah, it made me want to grasp onto the movie and never let go. You want to dive into the screen and hug ever character. You’ll want to hug your friend sitting next to you and even the creepy guy behind you. Or not.

“Juno” really is as good as it’s been hyped up to be. It’s been touted as this year’s “Little Miss Sunshine” and it’s every bit as good and every bit as funny as people say it is. Ellen Page is a revelation in the title role. As small teen Juno, she’s larger than life. She has a witty or sly comment for everything and yet she’s never repulsive or annoying. You just want to be her best friend. Page is Oscar-worthy here and she rivals one of my favorite comedic actresses Amy Adams. It’s amazing how playing an expecting mother can really be a breakout role.

Director Jason Bateman has taken first time scribe (and former stripper) Diablo Cody’s pitch perfect screenplay and concocted a freshly rewarding film about life, love and friendship that drips with splendid dialogue that is music to the ears. Page and her co-stars deliver every line with perfection. Take for instance Juno’s reply when a character asks her whether her parents are worried about her: “I'm already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?” There’s not a missed note along the way.

Arrested Development’s Michael Cera (who also starred in “Superbad”) is the slightly geeky Paulie Bleeker. After a night of awkward intercourse, Juno realizes much to her dismay that she is in fact pregnant. She tells her accepting father (JK Simmons) and stepmother (Allison Janney) the not so splendid news. How refreshing to see a set of parents that don’t freak out when they find out she’s with child. They are concerned yes as any parent would be, but they are not the enemy. There is no enemy here; remember I said you want to hug every character.

Realizing that abortion isn’t exactly the way to go, Juno decides to go through with the pregnancy and find loving, adoptive parents. While looking through the penny saver with her friend, she comes across an uber-perfect couple Vanessa and Mark (played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman). Vanessa is so ready to be a mother but Mark isn’t as sure about being a parent as Vanessa. Juno loves this couple and is willing to give her child to them. She quickly bonds with Mark, because we learn he’s really just a grown up teenager and Mark and Juno have a connection. They share tastes in movies and music. We learn right away that Mark’s favorite film is “The Wizard of Gore” and it’s immediately obvious that he may not be prime daddy material.

The film is a fun, lighthearted laugh fest. It has some extremely funny lines that you’ll be quoting even days after seeing the film. And its soundtrack is equally fun with many quirky songs that completely reflect the tone of the film and its characters. The movie never pulls at your heartstrings in a manipulative way and its not ashamed to cause a tear or too. This is one of the most warm, happy movies of the year. So just see it and hug it already. GRADE: A

Mock ‘N Roll: Musician Biopics Get Their Due in “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”

“In my dreams you're blowing me…Some kisses.” If you can laugh at the double entendre in this lyric found as part of the song “Let’s Duet” in the hilarious spoof “Walk Hard” you’ll be laughing the whole way through. Judd Apatow, who certain has had a great year having directed “Knocked Up” and producing “Superbad,” goes three for three by co-writing this funny send up of music biopics. Movies like Walk the Line, which tales the tale of the late Johnny Cash and Ray which features Ray Charles are given the “Airplane!” treatment. No stone is left unturn. They through ever gag at the screen, most of which actually stick. If you’ve gotten sick of the redundant pieces of crap like “Date Movie” and “Epic Movie” that have been masquerading as funny spoof films then “Walk Hard” is for you. It actually reaches the level of such classics as “The Naked Gun” and “Hot Shots!”

While it could have been called Biopic Movie, director Jake Kasdan (who also co-wrote) has rather decided to skip the standard “let’s-just-reenact-this-scene” way of making spoof movies. This is not a movie filled with scenes straight out of Walk Hard and Ray. They actually go beyond just recreating those scenes and actually create witty and funny situations. This film’s goal is to make you laugh and it succeeds admirably.

Over the past few years true life tales have taken a hold of motion pictures. I can’t remember the last time I saw a film that wasn’t based on a “true story.” But more specifically, the musical biopic has become a staple of cinema, especially in the past few years. And what’s so amazing is that it doesn’t matter whose story is being told; it’s basically the same story. A simpleton who dreams big gets the chance of a lifetime when they hit it big and become a musical phenomenon, but that’s not until recoiling into a dark period in which mind altering substances take over the performer’s life, only to be saved at the last minute and become a legend in the music industry. Phew! The story of Dewey Cox (played gamely by Golden Globe nominee John C. Reilly) plays out in the exact same way.

As a child, Dewey Cox was raised by loving but stubborn parents. After a tragedy that takes the life of his older brother, Dewey pours himself into his music. He becomes a hit sensation and sets off on a lifetime of sex, drugs and rock n roll. He marries his high school sweetheart Edith (played wonderfully by SNL cast member Kristin Wiig). They reproduced about 10 times and while Dewey is off making music she must stay home and watch their children. This is a marriage guaranteed to end badly. Of course Dewey meets a new love Darlene (The Office’s Jenna Fischer in the June Carter-type role). The two become a duet sensation. But then band member Sam (Tim Meadows) introduces Dewey to drug after drug which puts him in a downward spiral of darkness and despair, only to become a music legend in the end.

One of the most surprising aspects of “Walk Hard” are the actual songs written for the film. They are fun catchy songs that reflect the time they were written. Dewey Cox goes through many stages of music he goes from 50s crooner to 60s head tripper to 70s disco dancer to 80s pop star. He even has Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison phases. And if anything, see this film for its many cameos. Almost everyone from the Apatow clan makes an appearance somewhere. And even Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam joins in on the fun.

You’re unlikely to find a film with a larger laugh per minute ratio than “Walk Hard.” It works beyond just being a comedic remake of movies like “Walk the Line” and “Ray.” This is movie is silly yes, but it’s actually intelligent. This is movie made by people who know about comedy and good filmmaking. It’s obvious everyone involved here had lots of fun and you will too. GRADE: B+

Friday, December 21, 2007

Little Barbershop of Horrors: Tim Burton’s Adaptation of “Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a Cut Above the Rest

To put it simply “Sweeney Todd” the Tim Burton directed adaptation of the dark yet beloved Stephen Sondheim musical is one of the filmmaker’s greatest achievements. It seems to borrow all the best elements from his previous efforts and he thrusts them into high great to create a cinematic experience that pleasure the senses and makes you feel good. I can’t exactly say that you’ll be running out for a shave or a meat pie anytime soon, but the tale of a serial killer barber and the woman who turns his victims into delicious meat pies is such a mysteriously intriguing tale I can’t help but say it’s definitely one of the best filmed musicals of recent memory. Forget “Dreamgirls,” forget “Rent,” forget “The Phantom of the Opera” “Sweeney Todd” is open for business and it’s a simply smashing experience.

Take the beautiful production design and costumes of “Sleepy Hollow,” the performances of “Ed Wood,” the musical whimsy of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the awkwardness and outcast themes of “Edward Scissorhands,” and the dark brooding of “Batman” and you have “Sweeney Todd” a wonderful symphony of images ands music that pleasures ever part of you. Burton favorite Johnny Depp signs his heart out (in a weird David Bowie sort of way) as Benjamin Barker. He has the perfect wife and child, but an evil, jealous judge (a deliciously malevolent Alan Rickman) decides Benjamin’s life is too perfect and sends him off on false charges to rot in prison. Benjamin returns to London, where our story takes place, years later as the brooding and vengeance seeking Sweeny Todd. He sets up shop as barber intent on finding the man who wronged him. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lovett’s (perfectly cast Helena Bonham Carter) meat pies in her pie shop are the “worst pies in London.” It’s only a matter of time before Todd and Lovett team up to turn his victim’s into tasty meat pies. Doing this serves two purposes; it hides the evidence and creates a business boom for Lovett’s shop.

This is the first time since Ed Wood that Burton has not enlisted the help of composer Danny Elfman. But this is hardly an issue. Famed musical composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s musical is a perfect fit for Burton’s demented cinematic sensibilities. It’s as if it were written for him, although it was a Tony Award winning musical staged over thirty years ago. The music is catchy and the movie benefits greatly from being directed by a film director instead of a theater director adapting a play. I always tend to go back to the film version of “the Producers” that was a dreadful film that failed because of the staginess of its production. It felt like it consisted of just filmed stage numbers. Burton, having never official directed a live action musical (Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride are his previous musical efforts) has found a new voice as a filmmaker. He stages musical numbers based in reality, yet we never for an instant feel uncomfortable when characters break out in song.

“Sweeney Todd” is punctuated with just the right bits of gore and blood and it fits perfectly with this dark tale of revenge. Depp and Bonham Carter work tremendously well together. This is perhaps finally the film that will give Burton his due as a tremendously talented filmmaker. Whether his wins an Oscar, I’m not sure; but who else really could have pulled off this film as well as he did? To think that this man has gone from directing “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” to this says so much. “Sweeney Todd” is Tim Burton’s swan song and it’s bloody good indeed. GRADE: A

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

One Man Bland: Will Smith is the Last Man in NYC in “I Am Legend”

To many people New York City is an impressive sight: thousands of busy people coming and going, all those tall buildings and endless amounts of gigantic advertisements. But it’s even more impressive with no people around and weeds growing nearly as tall as the man-made structures around them. The production design of the science-fiction parable “I Am Legend” is the most notable part of an otherwise drab story of a man who survives the spread of a virus that turns people into daylight fearing CGI zombie-creatures.

I guess if you’re going to want to spend nearly an entire film alone with someone you could do a lot worse than Will Smith. I mean wouldn’t it suck if you had to watch Gilbert Gottfried walk around Manhattan all by himself? I shudder at the thought of it. Will Smith takes on the Tom Hanks Cast Away role as a man trying to survive on his own. Except in this film a terrible virus (which was supposed to be the cure for cancer) turns people into vampire-like monsters who feast on the flesh of the living. I guess the moral of the story is not to find a cure for cancer.

Will Smith is Robert Neville who is, by reasons I believe to be unexplained, is immune to this virus and he ends up being the last human being alive in Manhattan. After three years of surviving on his own with his trusty German Shepard, he still is trying to find a cure for this virus that spreads very quickly and makes people into raging lunatics. It basically turns people in a hybrid of the zombies from “28 Days Later” and the cave-dwelling humanoids from “The Descent.” (Certain parts also recalled “The Birds” and “War of the Worlds”) Of course, those films on the whole were far superior, but this film does have a few effective scares here and there. There is a suspenseful sequence set inside a dark building while Robert looks for his dog.

Films like this tend to lean towards some sort of political metaphor. I’m sure there is some kind of larger meaning behind it all, but basically what we have here is a simple story of humans being wiped out and one man struggling to survive. Will Smith is a good actor but I’m not so sure that this entire film is completely compelling in the way other films of this genre are. “28 Days Later” (and it’s terrific sequel) was so much more than a zombie film and “The Descent” wasn’t just about women trapped in a cave. They have something bigger to say about how society works, while “I Am Legend” seems more interesting in showing off elaborate special effects which by the way…

…suck major ass. The zombie people are completely unconvincing as effects. I spend most of the film trying to figure out why director Francis Lawrence approved the effects here. It’s obvious the film has a large budget and it showcases some impressive action sequences, but the zombies are only scary when they jump out at you accompanied by loud music on the soundtrack. The escaped zoo animals that run wild throughout the city (lions and deer) are also horrible CGI creations that had me scratching my head. With so many credible shots of a rundown Manhattan it amazed me that the other computer effects could be so ho hum.

The bottom line here is that this really is just a standard science fiction thriller that has a few scares and a good solo performance by Will Smith, but nothing more. I was intrigued by Smith’s character’s daily routine and I though his dog was impressively intelligent, as most movie dogs are, but other than those stunning shots of a bare NYC, this is one legend almost worth forgetting. GRADE: C+

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sister Act: Nicole Kidman is “Margot at the Wedding”

I don’t know director Noah Baumbach personally. All I know is that he directed The Squid & the Whale and now he has brought us “Margot at the Wedding.” But if there’s any way to know a person just from the films they make, it’s Noah. His films are filled with things you would never see or hear in mainstream films. And assuming he takes bits from his own life and inserts them into his movies, we can deduce he’s had one strange life. He takes taboo subjects and places them in front of you. He’s much more true to life than most filmmakers would like to acknowledge. And for that, I have to give him credit. “Squid” was a strange film that took a few viewings to get used to. It’s strange moments is what elevated it above regular, every movies. “Margot” is also very strange, but in a way it almost works against it.

Nicole Kidman plays Margot. Margot has a son Claude (Zane Pais). They arrive at the home of Margot’s sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Pauline is getting ready to marry Malcolm (Jack Black). Pauline has a daughter Ingrid (Flora Cross). These family members spend a few days together before the wedding. And in those few days we pretty much get to learn a lifetime of what makes these characters act the way they do. This movie works because of the actors. They talk about things and people we don’t’ know about and it’s up to us to figure out what they’re talking about. It’s kind of amazing in a way. It’s like jumping in on the middle of a stranger’s conversation. We don’t know what they’re talking about but by the end we kind of get the history.

The film is mostly talk, so if you’re not a fan of dialogue stay away. But this isn’t your average dialogue. You have to hand it to Noah for creating such an odd, quirky script. This is a movie where you’ll have male characters discussing how they try urinating by sitting on the toilet. You’ll have discussions between mother and son about the son’s use of deodorant and whether it causes cancer. He gives his actors so much to do and they elevate the material to a level that is rare in most films today. However, I can’t really say I cared much about what was going on. In “The Squid & the Whale” I found most of the characters interesting. They all weren’t the most likable but you at least care about what’s going on. In “Margot” the characters seem so whiney and depressed that you almost want to stage an intervention and commit them all to a mental institution.

I have to give credit where credit is do. The actors do a great job with the difficult material they have been given. There are some laughs here although I can’t really say whether this is a comedy or a drama (Although learning about how Margot tried baking her sister in the oven when they were little was a little priceless). Margot is a Wedding is certainly an original creation (what about those wacky neighbors?!) and something you’ve never seen before. It’s really an actor’s showcase, but be prepared to declare, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.” GRADE: B-

PS - Was it me or was the cinematography rather distracting? Some scenes were so underlit I couldn't tell the difference between Jack Black and Nicole Kidman.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Brothers Dim: Money Makes the World Go Round in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”

Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour play brothers in Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” They need money and fast. The only way? Robbery. Of course this won’t be any ordinary robbery. This will be a simple and quick scenario: they will rob their parent’s jewelry store. They get the money and their parents will get insurance money. No one will be harmed and everyone wins. Not exactly. The plot of “Devil” is very similar to the equally entertaining dark thriller “Fargo” in which a family man plots to have his wife kidnapped so he could collect his wealthy father-in-law’s ransom. In that film things go terribly wrong in a mostly black comedy sort of way. Lumet’s film is much more a straight thriller that bends time and shows scenes from different points of view. It’s gripping from start to finish.

Ethan Hawke’s performance is phenomenal. He takes makes an unsympathetic character sympathetic. He’s pretty pathetic and easy to dislike, but we’re with him almost 100 percent as soon as everything hits the fan. Philip Seymour Hoffman is obviously sensational as well. I think I like seeing him as a bad guy more than the good eye. He seems to have more fun with the role.
Marissa Tomei also proves that she act without Joe Pesci’s help. Albert Finney is also transcendent. It’s amazing to see what his character goes through and what leads up to his character doing something he feels he must do.

Sidney Lumet’s Oscar worthy direction is simply outstanding. You would never guess that a man in his 80s would have the lucidness and prowess to take on such a film. But we learn from his past films, such as the heist-gone wrong thriller “Dog Day Afternoon,” that he is certainly the man for the job. Like in that film, we tend to sympathize with characters who do bad things (i.e., rob people) because they’re in a position where there’s nothing left to do but turn to crime to succeed. And by showing the depraved acts caused by these characters we can only learn that this is NOT the way to make a living. It works almost as an anti-violence tale without the preachiness of a PSA. The story is time shifted in places as are most film in this post-“Pulp Fiction” world. But unlike Tarantino who relies sometimes too heavily on dialogue, rookie Kelly Masterson’s script is all about the story and how it affects its characters.

Carter Burwell’s score is so essential it’s practically a character. Nearly half of the tension felt is because of the haunting music that accompanies the haunting action. The scene in which Hawke’s character realizes the robbery has gone terribly wrong is one of the most memorable scenes from a film this year. You can instantly feel every single emotion that he is going through. You get that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach, like you’ve been punched in the gut. This film has the nerve to take your breath away but has the kindness to bring it back to you. It’s as exciting and compelling a film as you’ll see all year. GRADE: A-

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Gross-ry Store: “The Mist” Disturbingly Puts the Gory in Religious Allegory

Attention shoppers! Goo Light Special in aisle seven. The other Capote in aisle three. This is probably the best horror film to ever take place in a supermarket. And that’s a good thing. We, along with dozens of citizens of a small Maine town, are trapped inside a grocery store when a thick, ominous white cloud covers the entire building. A man, bloodied and weak, running for his life who ends up in the market, insists that everyone gather inside because there is something inside the mist. And the guy is certainly right because there are some horrific beasts in this fog that no one would ever be happy to encounter. We’re talking about creatures straight out of your darkest nightmare; in fact, they’re right out of the morbidly genius mind of one Steven King.

Yes I did mention in my title that “The Mist” offers a religious allegory. One of the citizens trapped in the store is Mrs. Carmody (a perfectly cast Marica Gay Harden) the local religious loon. After it's apparent that those trapped in the market are doomed she begins to spout passages from the Bible that insist God is getting back at mankind’s past sins. Of course there are ones that believe she’s nuts (myself included) and those that begin to follow her as if she’s a born again female Jesus. The other unofficial leader is David (competent B-lister Thomas Jane) who is trapped along with his young son (played by Nathan Gamble). David is a rational man who probably has the coolest job in the world: designing posters for Hollywood movies.

Director Frank Darabont’s, who also wrote the script, main goal is to create suspense. We don’t really know what’s out there at first and that’s good. The first creature stuff we get to see are some scary tentacles creeping underneath a loading dock door. And we see a less important character dragged to his bloody death. This isn’t any ordinary monster. And as the film progresses the monsters get scarier and almost unbearably creepy. But these creatures aren’t the only monsters: human beings can be just as scary in such a ridiculously stressful situation. Darabont is an assured director. While “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile” are his biggest successes, let’s not forget this guy started in B-movie horror films. He co-wrote the remake of “The Blob” for God’s sake! Here, he creates almost unbearable tension and some completely disturbing sequences.

As soon as it becomes clear that these people’s lives are seriously at stake (some people attempt to leave the market only to be ripped apart by the creatures lurking just outside) these ordinary citizens start to become rather loony. As Mrs. Carmody insists, it’s time to choose sides. Will you side with her and God. Will you pray for redemption or will you continue to not acknowledge the sins of mankind and face this horrific wrath of God? Better choose wisely, or you might end up a sacrific of the religious nutbags. David, along with a few other completely sane folks decide that they might be better off taking their chance with the malevolent creatures than these freaks. And it dares to raise the question? What is really more terrifying, giant bug-like creatures or people who insist that God is the only one to answer to? “The Mist” is sort of like “Lord of the Flies” meets “Alien” in a supermarket.

This is a film that is so easily likable because it seems to get everything right. It’s a character driven monster movie that knows suspense is its asset and uses gory effects to justify the tension it has created. And the film is almost disturbingly pessimistic that you simply have to thank it for not just wrapping things up in such a neat little package. It offers a mild explanation for this mist and let’s just say that King and Darabont don’t exactly paint an optimistic view of our government.

"The Mist" is the rare film that combines scares, suspense, gore, character, and themes of conspiracy, human nature and religion into an entertaining package. And it’s the first film in a long time that literally made me turn away from the screen due to an intense sequence involving overgrown spider monsters. This is a chilling roller coaster ride guaranteed to the give you the willies and damper your day. Thank God. GRADE: A-