Posters for Kevin Smith’s “Mallrats” at the Grandin Theater

I missed it.  It was playing for free, too!

It was the least of Smith’s “View Askewniverse” films, but I would have loved to see one on the big screen.  I’ve seen all of the V.A. movies on either VHS or DVD.

 

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A review of “The Conjuring” (2013)

I feel the same way about “The Conjuring” (2013) as I did about its prequel, “Annabelle” (2014) — it has all the earmarks of a bad movie, but it inexplicably succeeds anyway.

Seriously — this film has clunky exposition, cheesy dialogue and over-the-top plot developments (toward the end), not to mention a plot setup that’s in questionable taste.  (The movie suggests that the innocents condemned by the infamous 1692 Salem witch trials were indeed witches.  This feels a bit awkward to anyone who read Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” in high school.)  “The Conjuring” also plays out like a love letter to Ed and Lorraine Warren, the controversial paranormal investigators who are largely the subject of the film (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga).  This last offense is forgivable, I suppose — the film was made with the Warrens’ blessing, and Lorraine Warren was even present as a “consultant” during its production.

Strangely, however, these flaws were barely noticeable to me when I watched it.  I had a good time.  “The Conjuring” just happens to be a decent fright flick that delivers on the scares.

I think James Wan’s skilled directing has a lot to do with that; the film works visually.  (I could name specific instances where it works especially well, but I want to avoid spoilers.)

The acting helped a lot too — Wilson and Farmiga are both damned good, as is Lili Taylor as the afflicted family’s mother.  (I’ve admired Taylor’s acting since her long ago 1998 guest appearance on “The X-Files,” and she was equally good as a bad guy in 1996’s “Ransom.”)  Ron Livingston was also quite good in the role of the father — if you have trouble placing his face, as I did, he also played Captain Nixon in HBO’s “Band of Brothers” (2001).  He seems to have a talent for playing the likable everyman — he’s great here as the somewhat feckless father, and functions well as a kind of viewer surrogate.  I should also mention the young Joey King as one of the family’s daughters — she played the role of a terrified child to perfection, and really raised the stakes emotionally.

Despite really enjoying most of the movie, some of my enthusiasm for “The Conjuring” flagged a bit toward the end.  The denouement here includes an exorcism, and those are almost always boring.  There are only so many ways that scenario can play out, and we’ve seen them all — and I shouldn’t even need to name that certain 1973 film that did it best.  Furthermore, we see our story’s demon do some pretty extraordinary things, even by demon standards.  It can apparently transport itself great distances (using an inanimate object as a kind of fax machine?), and can manipulate both the laws of physics and the area’s wildlife.  It was all a little too much for my willing suspension of disbelief.

Again, though — this was a good movie.  I’d give it an 8 out of 10, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good scare.

 

“Eat, drink, and be merry …”

So a couple of friends of mine were chatting today about some of the more troubling developments abroad (hint: Russia, North Korea), and my friend Michelle invoked the expression, “Eat, drink and be merry.”

It was a reference to the oft-quoted “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.”

I always thought that the line came from William Shakespeare.  (It sounds Shakespearian, doesn’t it?)

But a little research set me straight. (You guys know I am weirdly OCD about these things.)  Like “Oh, how the mighty have fallen,” another saying that I thought was the Bard’s, it is actually derived from the Bible.

It’s a conflation of two Biblical quotes.  The first is Ecclesiastes 8:15: “Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry.”  The second is Isaiah 22:13, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die.”

And, hey … while we are on the subject of my own feckless assumptions, here’s another one that turned up on a webpage devoted to falsely attributed quotes — Henry David Thoreau never said “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  That’s a loose translation of something Socrates told us.

Madonna actually included that quote in one of her songs back in the 80’s.  I’m willing to bet she knew where it came from.  So Madonna understands literary references better than I do.

Anyway, you learn something new every day.

“Who you callin’ a CHICKEN?!”

My buddy raises hens.  It’s frikkin’ awesome.  (This post’s headline refers to the black chicken in the fourth photo.  She looks like she wants to fight me.)

Hens are safe to hold, too — though they might try to get away, so you’ve got to hold their wings in place, gently but firmly.  It’s the roosters that can hurt you; they have large, lateral claws called “spurs” that can be sharp, and they’ll act aggressively to protect the hens.

 

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A few quick words on “24: Legacy” (2017)

I hate to say it, but “24: Legacy” (2017) was mostly average stuff; I’d give the 12-episode arc a 7 out of 10 for being a mildly engaging thriller, but nothing more than that.

I was one of the few people back in the day who opined that “24” could continue even without Kiefer Sutherland.  As priceless as he was in his role as anti-hero Jack Bauer, he wasn’t the only star of the show — the show’s gritty universe and its unique format could carry on without him.  I even thought, during the early years, that Fox was grooming Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) to be a viable lead if Sutherland departed.

I still think the show could manage without Sutherland.  The real culprit behind “Legacy’s” failure to stand out was its somewhat average writing.  It wasn’t bad, exactly … it was just average.  (Alright — for a little while, it was bad.  We see a key subplot/cliffhanger repeated three times, consecutively, in the same season. I’m surprised that major redundancy made it past the editing process.)  But mostly, it was average — we see thin staples of characters, and a plot that seemed largely reminiscent of … well, every other season of “24.”  (Admittedly, it must be tough after nine years to think up an original story for a serialized contemporary terror thriller in real-time format.)

The sad part is this — during the show’s final two or three episodes, it started showing more promise, with truly original plotting and unexpected conflicts.

The show got disappointing ratings.  We won’t know until at least May, but I think most viewers are guessing it won’t be renewed for another season.