Saturday, July 29, 2017

Three Films Make A Post: There's a new police force on the streets... and they only come out at night.

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016): There’s the old chestnut that says not every film is for everyone, and that some films are definitely less for everyone than others. This pretty much describes Oz Perkins’s Netflix arthouse horror movie about a live in nurse (Ruth Wilson) moving into the house of elderly writer Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss) and the haunting she experiences. Which sounds rather easily consumable, but in Perkins’s telling, it is a film of shifting realities and meanings, where there’s never a clear dividing line between the real and the unreal, the psychological or the supernatural, and where that line only ever dissolves further. It’s a very slow and subtle film, with a brilliant lead performance by Wilson, yet it is also a film that needs patience, thought, and viewers absolutely willing to follow where it goes. For me, the film is beautiful and intense, but I can definitely see why someone might watch it and just get bored. Some films just either resonate with you, or they don’t.

Rollercoaster (1977): In comparison, James Goldstone’s thriller with disaster movie elements about an amusement park ride safety inspector (George Segal) finding himself drawn into the hunt for a mentally not terribly healthy blackmailer (Timothy Bottoms) threatening to sabotage rollercoasters around the USA is downright fast. In actuality, it’s a bit of a slow starter, spending too much time dithering before Segal’s Harry Calder is drawn into the plot. Once it gets going, though, this turns into an exciting little film that makes highly atmospheric – and often clever - use of the amusement park surroundings, plays fair with its audience and comes by its best set pieces as organic parts of the plot. There’s a fine cast too, with people like Richard Widmark and Susan Strasberg in various supporting roles.

Goldstone’s – who was mostly a TV guy - direction isn’t spectacular, but he’s effortlessly effective when it comes to the suspense sequences, and by now the style has taken on the enjoyable patina typical of well made but not spectacular 70s films.

The Wackness (2008): Looks like I’m not escaping the coming of age films these days. Jonathan Levine’s genre entry recommends itself through an off-handed but efficient portrayal of mid-90s New York – with hip hop as the logical soundtrack – solid acting by coming of ager Josh Peck, mandatory The Girl Olivia Thirlby, and Famke Janssen as her mother, and one of his showy yet intelligent and typically enjoyable performances by Ben Kingsley as the psychologist of our dope dealing hero – also his best customer, friend, and the stepfather of his love interest. The best parts of the film really concern the relationship between the two male characters, with Kingsley’s Dr. Squires despite the age difference still not having life figured out much better than the kid has. The relationships between the men and their respective women alas don’t really work too well because this is one of these male-centric coming of age films that never does spend any time alone with its female characters, and so never develops much motivation and personality for them not connected to the guys, turning their actions into plot conveniences more than choices made by human beings. Which to me always seems like a rather childish approach for films supposedly all about growing up.

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