Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain aka Amélie (2001): Keeping up a sense of romantic whimsy for nearly two hours of running time without either falling into the pits of treacly hypocritical mock naivety or just knocking it all over with a cynical snarl at the end is a difficult proposition, but Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film makes it look so easy. He’s got the perfect foil for his project in his lead Audrey Tautou who inhabits her slightly skewed world with so much charm it is astonishing the whole thing doesn’t become sheer kitsch; but there are layers (not to confuse with hundreds of sight gags, which are also in it) to the film, its script and her performance that make kitsch impossible, accepting the existence of darker tides while rejecting them. From there stems actual sympathy for the sad, the slightly lonely and the mildly strange characters that dominate a film that never gives up on its hard-won romanticism in the moments when darker realities are obvious.
Incarnate (2016): While it’s certainly not the most exciting
horror movie around, at least director Brad Peyton’s film does have more ideas
of its own than your typical possession movie – or rather, ideas it borrowed
from Dreamscape, Inception and so on. Unfortunately, the film
doesn’t do terribly much with the idea of having its exorcising protagonist
entering the dreams of the possessed, mostly avoiding surrealism and only going
for a very mild bit of mindfuckery late in the game. I’m not sure if the budget
or a lack of imagination were the problem there, though the presence of Aaron
Eckhart and Carice van Houten among the cast suggests this had decent resources.
It’s certainly entertaining enough for what it is, but with a bit more ambition
(and perhaps an ending that doesn’t ignore all the rules the film has set up
before) the film might have been rather more than that.
Havenhurst (2016): I keep things underwhelming with this
thriller by Andrew C. Erin. It looks fine, it’s certainly done with a degree of
competence, it features a solid lead performance by Julie Benz, yet the plot is
obvious, the ideas in it used a thousand times before, often in better films.
For a thriller, there’s just too little tension, and while the film does attempt
to pair its more outré horrors with themes like child abuse, drug abuse and
alcohol abuse, it doesn’t have anything to say about any of them that does read
like actual insight, turning them into plot devices. And plot devices, are just
not terrible interesting by themselves.