|The Conjuring is a rare quality horror movie.
The Conjuring. I was a little bit skeptical going into The Conjuring because it seems like there has been a steady stream of “exorcism” movies in recent years, but I was impressed with how well it was done. Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) are a husband and wife with five daughters who move into a haunted house in Massachusetts where, naturally, some terrible things have happened in the past. Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are specialists who take on the task of trying to rid the house of its demons. While I think Taylor is a terrible actress, the story works and there are plenty of moments that make you jump. I also appreciated director James Wan’s homage to 1970’s horror film cinematography. If you like horror films, this is one of the best I’ve seen in recent years.
Detachment. This is a star-studded cast (Adrien Brody, James Caan, Bryan Cranston, Marcia Gay-Harden, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, Tim Blake Nelson) but the parts are better than the whole. Brody plays an all-star substitute teacher in the inner city who comes into the school, puts his foot down, connects with his students, and makes a difference – in good ways and bad. I thought it was an overall positive message, and it seems like an earnest effort for stars to try to highlight some flaws in America’s youth and education. Overall, though, I thought it was a little cheesy and predictable.
Frozen. This is apparently all the rage among parents and children right now, and I am neither. I still pulled it out of the Redbox one evening due to my curiosity. I will admit that the main draw for me was the voicing of Elsa by Idina Menzel, whom I liked well before John Travolta mangled her name and all the way back to when the soundtrack for the Broadway musical Wicked came out. I have not made a habit of watching children’s movies in recent years, so maybe they’re all this way, but there were a lot of holes in the story that were just glossed over. Kids are dumb, so it probably doesn’t matter. I was pleasantly surprised by my enjoyment of the character Olaf, a magically created snowman voiced by Josh Gad, whose resume includes The Book of Mormon.
The Heat. There was a time when I thought women on screen (unlike in real life, where I once dated the funniest girl I’ve ever met) were completely incapable of being funny, but then along came Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy, and a few others. I can’t say the same thing for the next movie on this list, but McCarthy was hilarious in this video. The plot isn’t much, and I predicted the “twist” about a quarter of the way into the movie. But the banter between the strait-laced Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and the rough-around-the-edges Mullins (McCarthy) was worth the watch.
Identity Thief. I held off on watching this movie because people said all the funny parts were in the trailers. Those people weren’t lying. Coloradan Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman) gets his identity stolen by Diana (McCarthy) and, in an effort to save his credit and his career, has to make a road trip to the Sunshine State and drag Diana back to admit her crimes. Obviously, crazy things happen on the way, including the two funny parts – Diana doing karaoke in the car, and Diana trying to run away from Sandy down the side of the highway. Perhaps the best part of this movie was the presence of Sandy’s wife, played by Amanda Peet, who will always have a soft spot in my heart for her superb acting in The Whole Nine Yards.
Inside Llewyn Davis. We all have that friend (or friends) who tried to make it as a singer/songwriter type, and this is the Coen brothers’ story of the fictional Llewyn Davis, who bounced around the Greenwich Village music scene in the 1960’s. The lead is played by Oscar Isaac, whom I mistook for Drinking Buddies‘ Jake Johnson with a nose job. It did a good job of portraying the life of a struggling artist, although it’s tough to feel sorry for a guy who creates his own troubles. On a side note, Scott Avett (of the Avett Brothers) supposedly auditioned for the role, which would have been very interesting to watch because I love that guy’s voice. Also, T-Bone Burnett contributed some of the music, which I suspected when I first heard.
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I always liked Fallon on Saturday Night Live, but he was never my favorite. He always seemed to me like a good glue guy who could do a lot of things well, but he didn’t have that magnetic draw like Will Ferrell, Chris Farley, etc. When he got into the late night talk show game, taking over Conan O’Brien’s spot on Late Night, I shrugged my shoulders. I literally only watched about two episodes and found it to be a little low budget, the set to be dark and uninspiring, and house band the Roots to be too funky for my tastes. However, since he took over The Tonight Show from ultra douche Jay Leno, I have found Fallon’s upgrade in set, budget, and guests to be worth watching most of the time. The Roots are growing on me, and so is Fallon’s upbeat attitude. He genuinely seems to be having fun with the experience, which doesn’t always seem to be the case with late-night hosts. The show relies too heavily on Rob Ford and Vladimir Putin jokes, the second guest gets short schrift, and Fallon could afford to do some more homework on his guests (he recently asked if Jake Bugg is British or not), but it’s fun to watch Fallon’s variety show that involves games, impressions, dancing, singing, etc. O’Brien has some musical chops, but Fallon is probably the most talented all-around performer to grace a late night talk show since the genre was created.
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