All Good Things (2010) Review

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All Good Things (2010)

Directed by Andrew Jarecki

Starring:
Ryan Gosling
Kirsten Dunst
Frank Langella
Kristen Wiig
Philip Baker Hall
Diane Venora
Lily Rabe

Running time: 101 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Inspired by the life of accused murderer Robert Durst, the film chronicles the life of the wealthy son of a New York real estate tycoon, and a series of murders linked to him, as well as his volatile relationship with his wife and her subsequent unsolved disappearance.

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My Opinion:

Earlier in the year, I decided to start a Ryan Gosling Project where I’d watch all his films. But then… I don’t know, I just sort of fell out of love with him. So I haven’t continued that project but I guess I can add All Good Things to the list HERE.

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I thought this was a decent “based on a true story” (suspected) murder mystery movie. It’s not a genre I really go for but occasionally I’m in the mood for this kind of thing. I have to admit that I sometimes miss those (horrible) true story made for TV Lifetime movies in America. All Good Things is that exact sort of thing – It’s a Lifetime movie with a bigger budget & better actors. Okay, those Lifetime movies do get played in the UK but I just don’t have time for those (horrible) wonderful movies anymore. I miss Nancy McKeon, though – is she still doing that type of stuff?? And Valerie Bertinelli! And Meredith Baxter-Birney!

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So, anyway – this film is based on the story of wealthy Robert Durst, whose wife went missing in 1982. The case remains unsolved but Durst is suspected of two other murders 20 years later (and was tried for one, in which he claimed self-defense). Gosling plays Durst (but with the character name changed to David Marks) and Kirsten Dunst plays his wife Katie.

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I’ve never really liked Kirsten Dunst but I have to say she really did a very good job in this film. She was the highlight of the movie for me & I thought her performance was even better than Gosling’s. Obviously, it’s not a spoiler to say she disappears & we never see her again but, luckily, the film spends the majority of the time focusing on the marriage so she’s in the film a lot. After she disappears, the film goes through the next 20 years or so very quickly (maybe a little too quickly considering that this is when things got REALLY interesting & f%*ked up!).

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Ryan Gosling also does a good job but I kind of feel like we’ve seen too many similar performances from him before. He plays the character as a quiet, deeply troubled man (the type of role he plays so often). He plays it very subtle & it’s nice not seeing some over-the-top psycho but, again, we’ve seen this from him before. My very favorite Gosling movie is Lars And The Real Girl – he plays the role of Marks the same sort of way as he played Lars (but with a crazy anger underneath the surface – Lars was crazy but just sweet). He was great as Lars – if I hadn’t already seen that film, I’d probably be more blown away by his performance in this one. He is good in this – I’m not saying he isn’t. I just thought that Dunst felt like the true star in this one.

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Summary:

All Good Things is a very intriguing mystery based on the real life 1982 disappearance of the wife of a wealthy businessman. Gosling & especially Dunst give very good performances and a lot of time is spent exploring their characters & their relationship. Then she disappears & things get REALLY odd. I liked this movie quite a bit considering it’s not my favorite sort of genre. It really is an interesting case so I can see why they made a film out of it. I recommend this if you like “true crime” dramas.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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The Conjuring (2013) Review

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The Conjuring

Directed by James Wan

Starring:
Vera Farmiga
Patrick Wilson
Ron Livingston
Lili Taylor

Running time: 112 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

This “based on a true story” movie follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) as they investigate mysterious supernatural occurrences at the home of the Perron family (parents played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor).

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My Opinion:

I really enjoyed this film. I rarely watch horror movies anymore as they seem to have turned into nothing but the torture porn variety that I can’t stand. Give me either a good old fashioned 70s & 80s slasher with cheesy special effects I can actually handle or a creepy old-school supernatural thriller. The Conjuring, I’m happy to say, comes pretty close to feeling like a genuine 70s supernatural thriller.

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The Conjuring opens with the Warrens showing us a previous case they worked on where a doll had become possessed. Dolls freak me out. Dolls freak a lot of people out and the makers of The Conjuring clearly know this. They take as many horror movie cliches as they can and throw them all at us. But all horror movies do this anyway. The Conjuring at least manages to use every trick in the book in a few fairly original & effective ways. (To be honest, the doll was too over-the-top freaky. The music box was more subtle & far creepier… )

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The Conjuring takes place in the 70s, which helps add to the overall creepiness. I’m a sucker for 70s films so that will have helped my enjoyment of this.The clothes! The cars! The 70s were so groovy! (From what I remember of the decade as I spent the latter part of it watching Sesame Street). So I really liked the look of the film. It’s no The Shining as far as the look and feel go (can anything really beat that one?!). But I appreciate the effort they put into making this feel more like a good old-school haunted house movie.

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Did The Conjuring scare me? I know that’s the main question people seem to be asking. Well, I can’t really think of a movie that ever HAS scared me. There are some that give me the heebie jeebies a little bit. The one I just mentioned, The Shining, is probably the film I find the creepiest and comes the closest to “scaring” me. The Conjuring didn’t scare me, no, but had I seen it for the first time alone & in the middle of the night, I’m pretty sure I’d have slept with the lights on.

It’s fairly intense and that tired old “based on a true story” thing DOES seep into your brain whether you believe it or not – that’s why so many horror movies use that line. (I’ve not yet looked into the true story of the Warrens & Perron family so can’t comment on how true this film actually is). I was a little bit jumpy through the film but, as always, you know when the scares are coming. The film also shows us more of the “ghostly visitors” than I was expecting but I know they need to keep things balanced as the younger cinema goers expect that these days. I’ve always been someone who’s been more scared by the things we don’t actually see. However, I think The Conjuring strikes a decent balance at trying to keep the old-school supernatural horror fans like me and the current generation of fans happy.

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The number one reason that I think makes this film stand out so much compared to other horror films of recent years, though, is this: The acting (particularly the two female leads). Too many current horror films are full of either horrible acting or completely unlikeable characters. I don’t want to watch a movie with either of these things – I don’t think the rules should be any different for the horror genre. Lili Taylor was the best thing about this film for me. She was genuinely believable as a loving mother who just wants to protect her five daughters. I know she’s been in plenty of things in more recent years but not much that I’ve seen so it was great seeing her in a big role in this – I’ve always especially loved her part in Say Anything. Vera Farmiga is also great in this although I kind of feel I’ve seen her play a similar role before. The bond the two woman share as they both have daughters was very good. The men are fine but really take a backseat to all the females in the film (Ron Livingston especially seems to have very little to do). Being a woman, I really liked seeing a film with such strong female leads. Even all six daughters in this film do an excellent job, which is great as there has been some especially bad child-acting in horror films.

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Summary:

The Conjuring uses every trick in the book to scare us but at least uses those tricks in some fairly original & effective ways. The film has a good look & feel which will keep fans of old fashioned horror films happy but I think should also please a younger generation of fans who want something other than torture porn. But the thing that makes the film stand out the most in its genre is some great performances, especially those of the strong female leads. This film feels like a more grown-up horror film and will hopefully pave the way for similar films in this genre. I don’t think it’s the best “haunted house” film I’ve seen but it’s a refreshing return to an old formula that’s a step in the right direction in a generation now filled with some mind-numbingly bad and excessively gory so-called horror films.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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