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Hidden Netflix Gems – Session 9

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

Most films classified within the horror genre are not so much truly scary as they are fun in a sort of morbid way, at least to true horror fans. A real horror fan is too jaded to actually jump when the killer jumps out of the shadows, and certainly most monster movies are more eye candy to the true fan than they are actually frightening. The one thing most of the scariest films ever made have in common is a strong atmosphere of claustrophobia, a sense of no escape from a terrifying situation. Whether it’s in outer space (Alien), a remote arctic wilderness (The Thing), or an isolated building haunted by the past (The Shining), the feeling of being either physically or psychologically trapped is essential to real terror.

Brad Anderson‘s Session 9 has this atmosphere in spades, which is one reason it is probably the scariest film of the past decade. Though its characters can and do leave the location of the horror, a defunct mental hospital from which they have been contracted to remove asbestos, once they have set foot in it the horror never really leaves them. Gordon Fleming (Peter Mullan) is the owner of the company, a man troubled by a failing marriage and seemingly a lack of proper sleep. The rest of his team has their problems as well, all integral to the horror that befalls them. Mike (Stephen Gevedon, the film’s co-writer) is a law school dropout who has some prior knowledge of the asylum, which gradually begins to seem like an unhealthy obsession. Phil (David Caruso) and Hank (Josh Lucas) have an uncomfortable shared history, in that Phil’s former girlfriend is now with Hank, and Gordon’s nephew, Jeff (Brendan Sexton III), has a severe case of nyctophobia, or fear of the dark.

The rising terror of this film is wonderfully slow-burning, as all great haunted house stories should be, but this is ultimately more than just a haunted house story. As Mike begins to obsessively listen to the session tapes of former patient Mary Hobbes, from which the film gets its title, the others begin to gradually sense that something is wrong in this place and that all of their lives may be in danger. It is almost as though the playing of the tapes has summoned an ancient evil that has been lying dormant in the hospital, though the true revelation is far more intelligent and less cheesy than that might sound. Session 9 never takes the easy or expected way out, instead opting to sink its claws deep into the viewer’s brain for a more deeply haunting experience. The film’s final moments especially will really stick with you, and may even give you your own case of nyctophobia for days afterward.

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Box Office Recap: A Lot of New Releases, for the First Time in a While

After a few weeks in which there were never more than a few new releases at a time, mostly out of fear of “The Dark Knight Rises,” this weekend saw four new pictures enter theaters. As a result, there was major turnover in the domestic box office charts for the first time in what seems like a while.

The most successful new release was action sequel “The Expendables 2,” starring way too many people to name. The film brought in approximately $28.6 million after debuting in 3,316 theaters. Unsurprisingly, the film skewed to older males, 63 three percent of the audience was male and 65 percent was over 25. While the sequel fell off 18 percent from the debut of the original “Expendables” ($34.8 million), $28.6 million is a modest but acceptable opening mark.

The stop-motion animated feature “ParaNorman” took third place with $14.1 million. After production studio LAIKA received a great deal of critical acclaim for its first film, “Coraline,” many thought the studio might become a Pixar competitor. While LAIKA may arguably be putting out films of similar quality (each was certified fresh, with “ParaNorman” receiving an 88 percent and “Coraline” a 90 percent rating on the Tomatometer), they’re still lagging far behind in terms of box office success. Ten of the thirteen Pixar films have ended up with total domestic grosses over $200 million. LAIKA has a long way to go before they can compete with that.

As for the weekend’s other two new release, the musical “Sparkle” rounded out the top 5 with $11.6 million, while “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” came in seventh with $10.8 million.

Here are the results for this weekend’s top 10 at the box office:

Title/Weeks in release/Theater count, Studio/Three-day weekend total/Cume

1. The Expendables 2, 1/3,316, LGF, $28.591 million.
2. The Bourne Legacy, 2/3,753, Universal, $17.057 million, $69.618 million.
3. ParaNorman, 1/3,429, Focus, $14.087 million.
4. The Campaign, 2/3,255, Warner Bros., $13.127 million, $51.435 million.
5. Sparkle, 1/2,244, TriStar Pictures, $11.643 million.
6. The Dark Knight Rises, 5/3,157, Warner Bros., $11.011 million, $409.787 million.
7. The Odd Life of Timothy Green, 1/2,598, Buena Vista, $10.822 million.
8. Hope Springs, 2/2,361, Sony, $9.111 million, $35.063 million.
9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, 3/2,737, Fox, $3.834 million, $38.747 million.
10. Total Recall, 3/2,434, Sony, $3.472 million, $51.755 million.

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Ultimate Movie-Goers Experiences: From Cruises to Alaskan Resorts

Even as cinematography reaches new heights never before dreamed of by movie goers or movie makers, many modern theaters lack what the aficionado might refer to as atmosphere. Gone are the grandiose 18th Century theaters with elaborate molding or fabulous Art Deco architecture that reigned when live performances were the norm. Go into most any theatre from Baltimore to San Diego and it’s virtually impossible to distinguish one from another. If ambiance is an important part of the movie going experience for you, consider one of these venues.


Image via The Globe Theatre

5. Cine Thisio in Athens, Greece

Many outdoor movie theaters call Athens home during the summer months, but for the most spectacular view, try the Cine Thisio. Opened in 1935, it is also the oldest outdoor theater in Athens. Patrons enjoy the night viewing the best, but at any time of day or night you can see the Acropolis and the Parthenon.

4. Alamo Drafthouse in Alamo, Texas, United States

This theater combines a guaranteed quiet viewing along with great food and excellent beer. No children under the age of six are permitted, and there is a zero tolerance policy for interruptions during the film. Patrons also enjoy no advertisements before the film.

3. Prasads in Hyderabad, India

More than just one of the world’s many entertainment complexes, the Prasadas boasts the unique title of being the largest 3D IMAX theatre in the entire world. Not to be confused with the largest IMAX screen in Sydney, Australia, the Prasads is in possession of a 3D IMAX screen that measures a whopping 72 x 92 ft. This venue is also great for children of all ages.

2. The Castro Theatre in San Francisco, United States

Among the palace theaters that became popular during the first half of the 20th Century, The Castro Theatre entered the scene in 1922 and remains as one of the few relics of this grand era of architecture. Its Mexican cathedral-inspired styling embodies detail rarely seen in today’s buildings.

1. Celebrity Cruises

To see the latest blockbuster films as well as enjoy live entertainers like musicians, magicians, vocalists and more – the best possible overall experiences are Alaskan Cruises. Here, guests can enjoy days of dancing, listening to music, seeing the best films, dressing up, partying, dining and generally having a blast. The joy of celebrity cruises is how guests are pampered. This is an experience that truly must be enjoyed to be believed.

For movie and cinema enthusiasts, these venues offer the best experience possible – adding the benefit of ambiance to an already spectacular flick.

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Hidden Netflix Gems – Earth Girls Are Easy

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

In an oddball blend of ’50s science fiction classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day the Earth Stood Still, combined with much stronger elements of beach musicals and screwball comedy, director Julien Temple‘s Earth Girls Are Easy explores interplanetary sexual politics with a light and infectiously fun touch. This is one of those ’80s movies, much like The Lost Boys, that is objectively silly and perhaps unimportant to the history of cinema, but is nonetheless one of my favorite movies of all time.

Valerie (Geena Davis) is a sort of ditzy manicurist who works at beauty parlor in San Fernando Valley with her gloriously superficial and oversexed friend Candy (co-writer Julie Brown). After discovering her physician fiancée, Ted (Charles Rocket), attempting to cheat on her with a nurse he brings home, she kicks him out and wrecks most of his belongings in a musical montage of destruction and bittersweet flashbacks of the better times they spent together. Of all the film’s musical numbers, this is the weakest, but still great visual fun and prime ’80s nostalgia, as when Valerie shoves a box of Ted’s cigars into the VCR, or when she sends a bowling ball crashing into his Commodore 64 computer. As if her relationship troubles aren’t bad enough, the next morning a spaceship full of furry, horny aliens lands in her pool, and Valerie has to figure out how to keep them secret until they can fix their flooded ship and head back to their home planet.

The aliens are Mac (Jeff Goldblum), Zeebo (Damon Wayans) and Wiploc (Jim Carrey), and of course the solution to the problem of how to hide their alien identity is a makeover. Candy assists, removing the aliens’ colorful fur and revealing “three major cute guys” underneath. Valerie falls for Mac in particular, becoming enamored with his innocent, childlike ways, a result of the culture clash experienced by all three aliens, which is a major source of the film’s comedy. In perhaps the funniest scene in the movie, Zeebo and Wiploc, en route to a beach trip with Valerie’s aging surfer pool cleaner, Woody (Michael McKean), take his suggestion that they pick up “bread and junk” for sandwiches very literally. Brandishing a realistic toy gun accidentally stolen from a child earlier, they tell the frightened cashier, “Give us bread. We need junk.”

Though Earth Girls Are Easy could fairly be labeled predictable and certainly inconsequential, it has an undeniable charm, and only the severely humor-deficient will be unable to find something to like about it. For whatever reason, this movie is actually something of an addiction for me, a film I have to rewatch at least once a year or so in order to feel that all is right with the universe, to remind me that even with all the problems of the planet earth, at least its female humans don’t play too hard to get.

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Box Office Preview: ‘The Expendables 2,’ ‘ParaNorman,’ and ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green’

The Expendables 2

Come on, look at all the names in this one: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Jean Claude Van-Damme, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you need me to tell you what to expect you’re nearly 40 years behind the Hollywood action scene (and have likely never voted in a California gubernatorial election).

If you saw the first “Expendables” movie, then you know what’s coming here: action, action, and more action. Seriously, watch the trailer, it’s just the names of the stars intercut with explosions, guns firing, and chase scenes. It gives literally no information relating to the plot, which tells you just about all you need to know regarding its importance to the film. Nonetheless, here’s the official synopsis:

The Expendables are back and this time it’s personal… Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren),Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) — with newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) aboard — are reunited when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists the Expendables to take on a seemingly simple job. The task looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But when things go wrong and one of their own is viciously killed, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them.

“The Expendables 2″ has a 65 percent rating on the Tomatometer. Check it out if you’d like, just don’t expect much in the way of plot or character development.

ParaNorman

“ParaNorman” is the second feature film made by stop-motion animation studio LAIKA, the first being 2009′s “Coraline.” Both films have been met with a great deal of critical acclaim, and each has been “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, with “ParaNorman” garnering an 86 percent rating on the Tomatometer and “Coraline” sitting pretty at 90 percent. Not to mention that in the year of its release, “Coraline” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. With all the accolades the two films have received, LAIKA may be the first studio that can really compete with Pixar if it can keep producing films of high enough quality that they transcend the box animated films are so often put in.

Anyway, let’s talk about “ParaNorman.” Kodi Smit-Mcphee stars as Norman Babcock, an oft-misunderstood young man with the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead, a talent that comes in handy when his small town is overrun by zombies. The official synopsis tells us “In addition to the zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst, of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.” Smit-Mcphee’s co-stars include Casey Affleck, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Many adults discard animated films, believing them to be childish or incapable of conveying the same emotion and character that live action films can. But like Pixar, LAIKA makes films that relay all those elements in spades, the fact that they’re animated isn’t a detractor. As such, despite its PG rating, ‘ParaNorman” is a kid’s movie that isn’t really for kids. As Bullz-Eye’s Jason Zingale put it, the film is a “journey into the weird and macabre that will likely play well with pre-teens and older, but may be too frightening for younger audiences. Though parents should use discretion when deciding whether their children can handle the scarier moments, “ParaNorman” is packed with enough comedy that it helps dampen the effect.” It seems “ParaNorman” is a film more for those who are children at heart than actual children, and deserves to be checked out.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The last film seeing a wide release this weekend is “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” Let’s check out the official synopsis from Disney:

Director/writer Peter Hedges brings enchantment to the screen with The Odd Life of Timothy Green, an inspiring, magical story about a happily married couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), who can’t wait to start a family but can only dream about what their child would be like. When young Timothy (CJ Adams) shows up on their doorstep one stormy night, Cindy and Jim — and their small town of Stanleyville — learn that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life’s greatest gifts.

Given that its a Disney movie with a 41 percent rating on the Tomatometer, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” appears to be a try-hard heartwarmer that is ultimately more “style” (in the most Disneyfied sense of the word) than substance. Check it out only if you’re the overly-emotional type susceptible to that kind of drivel.

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