31 Days Of Horror 15: ParaNorman (2012) by Jamie

So it seems as though I’m still on my nice little animated break from the blood, guts and gore of your more traditional horror fare but this one at least has something more Halloweeny about it than Monsters University what with it’s Zombies and ghosts and witches and such.

ParaNorman is the tale of a young boy named Norman who is obsessed with zombie movie and, it just so happens, can see and speak to the spirits of the dead. He lives in a town that’s only claim to fame is a witch trial some three hundred years prior. The witch it seems placed a curse on those who tried her that would mean that they would rise from their graves, doomed to have their souls trapped in undead bodies for all eternity. Norman comes to learn that this legend actually has a basis in fact and, due to his special ability, it will soon be his responsibility to see that the curse goes unfulfilled for another year. Will he succeed or will the accursed undead rise from their rest?

Well, I should think the answer to that is pretty obvious or else there wouldn’t be a movie. and a movie there is. A rather enjoyable movie as it turns out and one that I’m happy to see doesn’t feel the need to talk down to kids. It’s a movie that realises that you don’t have to talk down to kids. You can make jokes about sex and violence because kids are already making the same jokes on the playground. One character whilst getting Norman to keep a promise by asking him to swear to which Norman responds “You mean like the F word?” These are the kinds of jokes that I can appreciate. Jokes that remind me of my childhood when I heard kids say shit in The Goonies or Elliot call his brother penis-breath in E.T. It’s stuff kids don’t need to be sheltered from because they already know it. It’s honest.

There’s also a pretty good message at the heart of this film, the message of acceptance. Yes, that you should always be accepting of others no matter your own prejudices or fears but also acceptance of the fact that some people just won’t like you, they’ll be dicks to you but that doesn’t give you an excuse to be a dick back.

All in all this was a pretty funny and thoroughly enjoyable film. If I have a complaint it’s that it kinda lags a touch in the middle where the talking to ghosts conceit seems to be all but abandoned for a while but it makes up for it with a pretty strong beginning and ending, some nice horror references to things like Halloween and Friday the 13th and by being one of the best looking stop-motion films I’ve ever seen. Three and a half pints out of five. Laterz.


Review: 50/50 (2011) by Jamie

Cancer. It’s a subject that you might not think works that well in a comedy unless it’s in something like South Park. Is there a way to do a touching yet funny film about such a serious condition? Well, it turns out that there is as demonstrated by the subject of this review, ‘50/50’.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a man who’s life is acceptable but not particularly extraordinary. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he has an attractive, if somewhat emotionally distant, girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and he works at a local radio station with his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen). So, like I said, nothing special but an agreeable existence. One day his whole life is turned upside down when he goes to the doctor to get some test results to find out what’s been causing his recurring back pains and he’s informed he has a rare form of cancer with a 50% survival rate. To help him deal with this he is sent to a trainee psychologist (Anna Kendricks).

And that’s about all I can really say about the plot without giving away too much in terms of spoilers. Needless to say that Adam goes through several stages of grief, anger, acceptance etc, all whilst trying to deal with the experience of going through his ordeal with cancer in his own way, generally trying to rely on help from the people around him as little as possible despite their own efforts to try and help him in their own way. Kyle tries to get Adam to use his illness to his own advantage by using his friend to help him pick up girls whilst also encouraging Adam to do the same. The character may seem a little selfish at first but it becomes clear that he really does care about his best friend and is basically just doing what he can to keep his spirits up.

There’s also Adam’s somewhat overbearing mother (Anjelica Huston) who, due to a lifetime of worrying incessantly about her son, Adam tries to push away (as kindly as he possibly can) even though this is a time in his life when he should really be seeking her care and love. This is made all the more difficult, and somewhat heartbreaking, because Adam’s father is suffering from Altzheimer’s and so, as Anna Kendrick’s character puts it “she has a husband she can’t talk to and a son who won’t.”

To sum up, ‘50/50’ is a film that manages to take a very serious subject, cancer and the way it affects the sufferer and the people around him, that manages to make it both funny and sweet. It made made me laugh and also brought a few tears to my eyes, especially the scene where Adam is talking to his parents right before he goes in for his surgery (but then again, I realise I‘m a massive pussy who cries at the drop of a hat in films. Fuck, I cried when I watched Jurassic Park in the cinema recently when the main theme played for the first time). I think it’s definitely challenging ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ as my favourite film of this year. Sure, it’s a bit saccharine at times but it never really goes too over the top in the sappiness department. It also has a pretty fine soundtrack. Seriously, if you watch one comedy about cancer this year, make it ‘50/50’. Five pints out of five. Laterz.

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