Monday, June 16, 2008

Short Night

I tried to come up with some sports related reason to review The Happening, but there really isn't one, so I'll dispense with the pretense. For those who haven't heard, the new M. Night Shyamalan movie pulled down a putrid 20% on the tomato-meter. The new Hitchcock has been accused of unleashing a 'career-ender' on the movie going public. Early buzz has been bad, and some of the acting (I'm looking at you Marky "I can't be believable as being from Boston in the Departed despite actually being from Boston" Mark) was rumored to be awful.

In the interest of full disclosure, I love Shyamalan movies. Signs is one of my all time favorites. I thought Unbreakable was genius. I thought Lady in the Water was beautiful. I really liked the Village and 6th Sense. I know the critics killed some of those movies, but they were all right in my wheelhouse (especially Signs which might be the most personally emotionally resonant movie I've ever seen). M. Night is one of my favorite film makers, and as a huge Hitchcock fan, I freely admit that I like this genre more than most people.

With all that out of the way, let me start by saying that The Happening is a good movie. It isn't a flawless movie. It's certainly the least impressive of his slate to date; but it is a good movie. The concept was original, the film making was excellent as usual. The lead actors were good (notably an under-used John Leguizamo), and even Zooey Deschanel (who single-handledly killed the Sci-Fi mini-series Tin Man) was more than competent. The movie was suspenseful throughout, with moments of humor and the typical Shyamalan brand of horror (the idea of what was happening was scarier than the execution). Quite frankly, if this movie had been made by anyone else or if it had been an under the radar release like 6th Sense, it would not have gotten the negative press. Shyamalan savaged the critics in Lady in the Water, and they have not been kind in return. If you are a fan of his movies, you may not count The Happening as your favorite flick, but you won't hate it either. If you've been disappointed by previous M. Night trailers that promised horror and gore, but gave suspense and introspection, then you'll be similarly upset with this entry in his canon.

I have my criticisms, mostly that there was the opportunity to have a truly creepy 'point' set up by a class room speech in the first 10 minutes. Shyamalan abandoned the more mature, vague point for an overly preachy one which drained the last 10 minutes of the film of some of the really scary consequences of the sort which made The Village a truly disturbing movie if you thought about the implications. There were minor things that could have elevated this film to the same level as his others, but in all it was much closer to a brilliant film than to a bomb. Despite not being my favorite work of his, the writer/director/best boy grip/makeup artist/animal handler Shyamalan gave us a movie with some surprisingly haunting images that are unique and lasting and a movie that leaves you waiting for the bomb under the table to go off. If you like the kind of movie where the waiting is more the point than the explosion, then you'll enjoy this film. If you just want the carnage, then forget it.

And, Mark Whalberg is a huge Celtics, Game 6. Uh, yeah, I still got nothing. Sorry.

Colvin is set to sign with Texas. This is why I didn't get all that excited about this months ago. It always seemed like a long shot for him to come to Indy. I don't think the brass feels they need him. The link originally came from Profootballtalk, who I won't hyperlink to because I'm still protesting Floria's moronic handling of the Harrison situation.

The DA wants more evidence collected in the Harrison case. Oh ok. Seven weeks later go back and get more evidence? This case is stalled out and this is the first sign it's going away. Essentially this means that as of now they don't have enough for any kind of charges to be brought. Somehow I doubt that's going to change at this late date.


Joel said...

I really liked The Sixth Sense, and have liked each M. Night movie less and less. I haven't seen Lady in the Water, but I've seen the rest. I liked parts of Signs, but I guess I'm too rational to really enjoy it too getting stuck on why an advanced alien civilization would attempt to take over a planet which is 2/3 comprised of an element poisonous to them. That'd be like us trying to take over Planet Hydrochloric Acid. Plus I thought that he didn't develop the characters nearly enough for me to really connect with them. I thought Unbreakable was totally anticlimatic. I guess my biggest probelm with Shyamalan tends to be his just feels too rushed most of the time, with 6th Sense and The Village being notable exceptions.

Anyway, after reading this review from The New Republic, I'm pretty sure I won't be seeing The Happening.

Joel said...

Perhaps oddest of all, The Happening imagines itself to be a powerfully pro-environment movie. The snatches of televised commentary we see at the end of the film declare that this murderous act of nature was a warning; everyone seems to assume the obvious lesson to take is that we'd better treat nature nicer lest it decide to start wiping us out again. Allow me to suggest, contrarily, that if millions of Americans were killed by some tree-originated pathogen that could be released again at any time, the immediate result would not be a renewed enthusiasm for peaceful coexistence, but rather a program of deforestation so aggressive it'd make the Brazilian lumber industry look like tree huggers.

Bob M. said...

Keep the movie reviews coming. As a bachelor living in NYC I used to watch 40+ a year. As a father of 3 youngsters in Seattle, I literally cannot remember the last movie I saw before Iron Man. Probably Cars 12 months before.

So reviews are what I now read to vicariously pretend to be a cinephile. Might as well get all my infotainment from the same URL!

Picky said...

Ireally liked the Sixth Sense (it was almost genius!) I thought Unbreakable was also awesome (I bought the DVD, and that is my highest recommendation). Signs (as joel said) had a huge plot hole: the fact that the aliens were allergic to what they were hunting. "The Village" was a waste of film, and I am still petitioning to get those two hours of my life back. Lady in the Water was at least interesting, but the chutzpah of Shyamalan to play in his movie...he played a writer who had a story that would change the course of human history, but the critics didn't like it. Hmm.

I used to count myself a Shyamalan fan. But each movie seems to stray farther from the mark of what I think is good entertainment (for one reason or another). Scale of 1-10 (ten being the best movie I've ever seen, one being the worst aka "being John Malkovich"):
The Sixth Sense: 9
Unbreakable: 7
Signs: 5
The Village: 2
Lady in the Water: 3

I will probably not be seeing The Happening for two reasons: I do not like horror movies, and given the trend, this movie has the potential to rate a 1 (which is "john malkovich bad." I felt like I needed a shower after watching that movie...kind of like Jim Carey in Ace Ventura when he found out he had been kissing a man, you know the scene.).

Picky said...

Here's the Ace Ventura clip I was talking about.

It's the scene from 5:15 to 5:55

Deshawn Zombie said...

I'm not going to argue the 'plot hole' in Signs, because that's a classic case of missing the point. There is an answer to that but we'd dip waaaay too deep into nerd range.

I have strong and cogent reasons for loving Unbreakable (one of the best directed movies ever) and the others, but this isn't really the best forum for debating that. I appriciate everyone's opinions.

As for the New Republic comment, that goes to the heart of my one real complaint about the Happening. The 'point' or 'moral' was wrong. The movie offered a much creeper and intellecutally resonant one early and then more or less abandonded it for the obvious pro-environment message. That kept this movie from being all it could have been.

jc said...

He was believable in The Departed, trust me.

Now a good example of someone from Boston who made it seem like he wasn't is Dennis Leary in "Recount".

John said...

picky, you seriously didn't just diss "Being John Malkovich". Great film.

I agree about Village though: what a stinker. Phew.

Shake'n'bake said...

I'm assuming the fresh breath of logic inserted into the end of the comments section of the Marvin story at PFT by a "DZ" was you. Way to hand Florio his ass.

DZ said...

Yeah, that was me. For the life of me, I can't understand how a 'lawyer' can know so little about the law. He seems to assume that because Marvin's gun was fired, Marvin was guilty. the whole thing is weird. I can't figure out what crime he wants to charge Marvin with.

Joel said...


I get your "missing the point comment," that all of MNS's movies are basically about either familial reconciliation or some sort of personal redemption, and all the other stuff (be it ghosts, super-villains, aliens, etc.) are just the vehicle for him to drive through his larger theme. At least that's what I suspect you're saying. I guess I just feel like that "theme" gets less and less effective each time he tries to hammer it home. I really liked the concept of Signs (the water thing notwithstanding), but I just felt like I never got to know any of the characters enough to care about their fates.

The really problem with MNS's movies is that he has set himself up for failure. Every movie he makes now, everyone is just sitting there waiting for "the big twist," and there are only so many twist endings you can come up with. There's a law of diminishing returns in effect. No one (despite what they'll claim) saw the twist coming in Sixth Sense, and so it blew us away. Now, each movie he makes, we're waiting for it, and it's usually hard to not be underwhelmed when it finally happens.

Joel said...

Hey DZ, you said:

The movie offered a much creeper and intellecutally resonant one early and then more or less abandonded it for the obvious pro-environment message. That kept this movie from being all it could have been.

Given that I'm not going to go see the movie, would you mind telling revealing what "alternate theme" you had in mind?

Deshawn Zombie said...

Spoiler Alert:

Early in the movie, Marky Mark gives a 'speech' to his high school kids about intellectual humilty in science. He comments that sometimes things just happen that we'll never fully understand.

The stronger point that should have come out in the film is this. Instead of just doing a straight "plants killed people" message, M. Night should have done a better job weaving together a variety of possibilites (terrorism, nuclear plants, God's judgement, nature), and made the point of the movie that science isn't sufficeint to answer all of life's mysteries. Sometimes things just 'Happen' and we don't know why and there is nothing we can do to stop it. A more open ended explination would have made the movie spookier and more resonant. He could have then ended the film with the happy couple celebrating the pregnancy with a shot of the wind blowing through the trees nearby. This would have been a more haunting image and made for a more satisfying conclusion than a talking head on TV over-explaining everything followed by terror in France.

I don't think M Night movies are about the twist at all. At the very least the twist isn't the point, it's merely a device. There was no twist in Lady in the Water, nor really one in the Village. Those movies were about community at its best and worst.

Anonymous said...

Dumb and Dumber rules!!!