No one needs awards coverage this deep
James Wan's latest is a lesson in control, restraint and confidence
A chilling scene from "The Conjuring"
Credit: Warner Bros.
It was 40 years ago this December that William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" terrified audiences and found itself in the rare position of being a critically admired prestige horror film. It landed 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actor (Jason Miller) and Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair). William Peter Blatty even walked away with the trophy for the adaptation of his own novel.
Why am I mentioning this now? Because four decades later, James Wan's "The Conjuring" is easily the best film of its kind since Friedkin's masterful thriller. In a genre that has increasingly given way to the cheapest levels, where films like "The Devil Inside" are rattled off like products on an assembly line, here is a film with a real respect of the craft and, most importantly, a level of restraint. Restraint and a sense of build is what made the most chilling elements of "The Exorcist" land like holy water burns on demon flesh, and it's equally what makes Wan's more direct terrors connect in "The Conjuring."
From 'Wings' to 'Argo,' most of them are at your fingertips
Oscar's all-time biggest winners: "Ben-Hur," "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Have you ever wanted to see all 85 Best Picture winners and access them easily and efficiently without buying DVDs or waiting for Netflix mailers to arrive? Well, iTunes can almost get you there. And really, 88% ain't too bad at all.
David Lowery re-edited Sundance hit with some input from 'Harvey Scissorhands'
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck in "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
Credit: IFC Films
One film from the year's festival circuit so far that I'm particularly looking forward to revisiting is David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints." That's partly because a first viewing afforded many rich textural pleasures -- from Bradford Young's dusky cinematography to Daniel Hart's inventive, handclap-heavy score -- that deserve to be savored in less pressured surroundings than a Sundance premiere, but also because the film has changed a little, and reportedly for the better.
Cormac McCarthy's first original screenplay finds its way to screens in October
Brad Pitt in "The Counselor"
Credit: 20th Century Fox
Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" has a lot of people curious what with it being the first original screenplay from "No Country for Old Men" and "The Road" author Cormac McCarthy. It's a marriage of two visionaries and it has a stellar cast -- Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem etc. Diaz in particular has a pretty showy (and raunchy) role and could end up in the Best Supporting Actress Oscar conversation at the end of the day.
The five-time nominee has yet to pick up a statue
Tina Fey and Jane Krakowski in the series finale of "30 Rock"
Beth McCarthy-Miller has been a part of the "30 Rock" family almost since inception. She’s directed some of the show’s finest episodes, including both live ones and “TGS Hates Women,” so it was natural for co-showrunners Tina Fey and Robert Carlock to place her at the helm for their show’s two-part finale. “Hogcock!” and “Last Lunch” aired January 31 one right after the other, requiring McCarthy-Miller to meld two episodes into a cohesive whole and put a button on the series' seven-year run. HitFix spoke with her about this process as Emmy voters are casting ballots -- McCarthy-Miller has been nominated five times for her work on “30 Rock,” but never won.
We count down the Spaniard's top tier work
Pedro Almodóvar's cabin-crew comedy "I'm So Excited!" finally jets into US theaters on Friday, and as I suggested in my review, some of the kooky Spanish auteur's fans may want to brace themselves for a crash landing.
But you may disagree. The critical reception for his latest is cooler than Almodóvar has come to expect, but as many die-hard fans of the director have been tickled as have been dismayed. One thing both camps will agree on, however, is that it couldn't be the work of anyone else: from his recurring themes of fringe sexuality to his Crayola color palette, Almodóvar's films are arguably the most immediately and universally identifiable of anyone's in the current hierarchy of European auteurs -- to the point that even the Academy has embraced him and even Almodóvar himself has taken to parodying his own stylistic tics.
The genre legend was to receive the organization's visionary award
By now you may have heard the news of the unfortunate passing of author Richard Matheson, a titan in his field who leaves behind him a rich, vast, deep legacy of material that will continue to be enjoyed and mined for years to come. And his impact on cinema as we know it is nowhere near negligible. Indeed, consider the beginnings of Steven Spielberg's career, whose calling card adaptation of Matheson's short story "Duel" catapulted him to Hollywood's attention.
"Richard Matheson's ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break when he wrote the short story and screenplay for 'Duel,'" the director said in a statement. "His 'Twilight Zones' were among my favorites, and he recently worked with us on 'Real Steel.' For me, he is in the same category as Bradbury and Asimov."
Matheson was set to receive the Visionary Award at the 39th annual Saturn Awards Wednesday night, presented by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Pity the award will now be presented posthumously, but the ceremony will now be dedicated to his memory.
Magnolia will release the film in theaters and on VOD August 9
Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd in "Prince Avalanche"
Credit: Magnolia Pictures
The more I think back to David Gordon Green's "Prince Avalanche," which I saw at the Sundance Film Festival where it made its world premiere, the more charmed I am by its unexpected charisma, its personal flourishes and its central performances. It popped up as one of our under-the-radar films for the summer movie season, and indeed, when it hits theaters in August, it will be a nice change of pace for those looking for as much after the blockbusters have had their way.
The actor has been a loud proponent of gun control in recent months
Jim Carrey in "Kick-Ass 2"
Credit: Universal Pictures
Jim Carrey is backing out of supporting his new film "Kick-Ass 2" due to its depiction of violence, the actor said in a pair of Tweets this afternoon.
"I did 'Kick-Ass ' a month before Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence," he wrote. "My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart."
One would expect, however, for the actor to have a contractual obligation to promote the superhero sequel, in which he stars as Colonel Stars and Stripes, an ex-mafia member turned masked vigilante. This is often worked out prior to shooting, and especially with someone as mercurial as Carrey. Universal did not respond to a request for comment. Last week it was announced the studio would be making "Dumb and Dumber To" with the star after Warner Bros. passed on the project.
Chinese auteur Tsai Ming-liang wins the short film award
Brie Larson in "Short Term 12."
Bookended by Pedro Almodovar's "I'm So Excited!" and Fox Searchlight's starry Sundance comedy "The Way, Way Back" -- which closes proceedings tonight -- the Los Angeles Film Festival may boast its share of big names, but when it comes to its competition sections, it juries tend to throw the spotlight on lower-profile fare.