My sole SHOCKtober feature this year. Still upset that I missed this in its one-week, Atlanta-only theatrical run. It opened with no publicity on a week that I didn’t check the papers assuming nothing was playing. Anyway I was determined to watch Joe Dante’s newest, excited despite the average-ish reviews it got. And it’s a pretty average movie – imaginative, but still a gentle teen horror flick about growing up and overcoming your fears.

Gearing up to battle evil:

Bringing to mind The Gate and The Handsome Family, two boys with a hard-working mom (Teri Polo, Dan’s girlfriend in Sports Night) and violent, imprisoned dad team up with the hottie next door (Haley Bennett of Kaboom) and find a bottomless hole in the basement of their new rental house. This is where the 3D effect would shine – all the experimental lowering of things into the camera/hole.

Teri:

Killer Klown – good puppetry in this movie:

The kids’ darkest fears start following them around town (except older boy Dane who is afraid of nothing). Neighbor Julie is haunted by her best friend who died when they were younger. Little Lucas is just afraid of clowns. After Dick Miller’s wasted silent cameo as a pizza guy, the kids venture to the abandoned glove factory “Gloves by Orlac” to ask former homeowner (and holeowner) Bruce Dern (a couple decades after The ‘Burbs) what is up – but he’s little help and is soon silenced by the Hole.

Dick:

Bruce:

Dane has a fear after all, that his dad will come back and beat the hell out of his family, so the movie turns nightmarish as he battles his Danzig-looking father (played by “one of the tallest actors in Canada”) in a CG-assisted Caligari-house. Fears conquered, the hole becomes a simple crawlspace.

Dante’s version of kids today hasn’t changed much since Explorers – it’s definitely set in the present (The Killers and Jonas Bros are mentioned) but these boys’ ideas of fun include sketching, reading books (including the other Dante’s Divine Comedy) and throwing the ol’ baseball around (though they do have a Playstation).

Good gag: the kids turn away when mom comes home, missing the giant eyeball recorded by the camera they lowered into the hole:

Someting Dante and I have in common: Morristown!

From the nerdist interview:
“When you’re shooting for 3-D, do you feel a bit like John Goodman in Matinee?”
JD: “I always feel like John Goodman in Matinee.”

“So if there were a hole in Joe Dante’s basement, what would come out of it?”
JD: “Financing for my next picture!”

Scorsese’s first major non-DiCaprio feature in a decade.

After the films of Georges Méliès aren’t popular anymore, he burns his props, donates his precious drawing robot to a museum and opens a trinket shop in a train station. Museum worker Jude Law takes the robot home to repair it then dies in an explosion. Museum man’s son Hugo, secretly the station’s clock-winder since his drunk uncle (Sexy Beast star Ray Winstone) has disappeared, repairs the mechanical man and, Amelie-like, presents it to Georges Méliès, rekindling his hopes, dreams and love of cinema. Help comes from Méliès wife (Helen McCrory: Tony Blair’s wife in The Queen, Malfoy’s mum in Harry Potter), an author of a book on cinema (Michael Stuhlbarg, star of A Serious Man) and Chloe Moretz, who seems to have gotten younger since her last few films.

Some side plots are loosely integrated – they must be leftovers from the novel. Inspector Cohen has a crush on lovely flower girl Emily Mortimer (of Shutter Island) but is embarrassed by his mechanical leg brace, Christopher Lee is a forbidding/kindhearted book seller, and Richard Griffiths (uncle Monty in Withnail) is doing something or other with Frances de la Tour (in charge of the Albert Finney’s Head science project in Cold Lazarus) and her dog.

Set at the Gare Montparnasse train station where the famous photograph of the train derailment was shot – Hugo must’ve seen the photo because he dreams himself causing it. Some good cinema-reference, a few lovely bits of 3D (and some 90 minutes where I barely noticed the effect), and a nice performance by Ben Kingsley, but ultimately I couldn’t shake the feeling that it’s just a well-made kids movie.

About the 20th time I’ve seen The Lion King, but the second time in theaters and the first time in THREE-DEE (Katy commented that in the rainy scenes it seemed like it was raining inside the theater – otherwise the 3D didn’t add much). During the whole Hakuna Matata scene (and a few others) the Book of Mormon song “Hasa Diga Eeebowai” ran through my head, but I restrained myself from bothering Katy with it, since she was 15 again and reciting all the lyrics and dialogue along with the movie. Didn’t realize Rowan Atkinson played the king’s bird assistant Zazu. Jeez, IMDB lists 29 writers.

1. Only movie in recent memory that makes me hope for a special-edition DVD so I can sit and watch making-of featurettes all night long to answer the record number of “HOW did they DO that”s which hit me during the screening.

2. Best use of 3D that I have ever seen. Implemented not to throw stuff at the audience’s face, but to bring us into the movie’s world and immerse us in all the handcrafted marvels within.

3. And a good, extremely imaginative story on top of that. The plotting gets a little video-game problem-solvey towards the end and Coraline’s own character could use more exploration, but hey, even WALL-E had problems. No need to nitpick when there’s so much here worth appreciating.

Mopey-teen title character deals with her new home and inattentive parents. Meets a talkative, twitchy boy with the disturbing-in-a-kids-movie name of Whyborn, a flea-training circus strongman neighbor, and two candy-appreciating, dog-collecting women who are also washed-up performers. Then Coraline finds a doorway into John Malkovich’s head, where dad is robotically nice (and sings just like They Might Be Giants), the performing neighbors are impossibly entertaining, and Whyborn shuts up… all catering to Coraline’s desire that everything should center around her. Fortunately, a stray cat fills her in on the diabolical reality involving an interdimensional witch who steals the eyes of children, and even more fortunately, the witch stupidly allows Coraline to bargain and cheat her way home, leading to a happy ending where C. has learned to better appreciate her real life.

Also: the armatures were fantastic! Guy named Jeremy Spake was their armaturist… I imagine we’ll be seeing big things from him in the future.