‘Sleep Tight’ Put Me to Sleep

The new movie from Jaume Balagueró, the director of REC and REC 2, was a bit of a disappointment. Sleep Tight moves incredibly slowly, building the suspense in an admittedly effective way, but the pacing of the film in general kept it from really grabbing my attention. Any momentum that is gradually gathered throughout the film fizzles out after the sort of pseudo-climax 2/3 of the way in, and it goes back to a slow, drawn-out resolution that only grips you again in the final moments.

130202-sleeptightThe first 10-15 minutes are especially yawn-worthy, simply depicting the mundane tasks of apartment building manager César’s (Louis Tosar) life and routine. Some may say that this is an artistic choice, made in order to get the viewer into the mindset of our anti-protagonist, but for me the fact that it was so boring led to the exact opposite effect: I had almost no investment in César because he seemed so gorram boring. Really, the entire first half of the film almost put me to sleep.

The worst thing about this kind of approach to exposition used in Sleep Tight is the fact that it violates the contract with the audience. All screenwriters should be aware that the first ten minutes (or pages) of a movie are the most important–this is where you grab your viewer’s attention and give them the information they need to make the decision to invest the next 90 or so minutes of their life on this film. By the end of those ten minutes, then, the viewer should know the genre, who they are rooting for (the protagonist), the main conflict, and what the main character’s motivations are. Now, some element of mystery can still be maintained, but without these key elements, your audience is likely to get bored, preventing them from getting invested in the characters and the story.

And therein lies Sleep Tight‘s primary failing: César’s motivation is not only difficult to decipher in those first scenes, but even when it is explicitly stated by the end of the film, it convoluted and unrelatable. As I have discussed before, if you’re making your protagonist a “bad guy,” his motivation is the most essential part of his character, as the audience needs to be able to relate to it and even share in justifying his actions because of it.

Check out this review of Sleep Tight that discusses both its successes and its failings. What did you think of this new movie from Balagueró?

‘Sleep Tight’s Slow-Moving Suspense is a Snooze
Liz Medendorp @ PopMatters

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From the director of REC comes a slow burning suspenseful story of mental illness and clandestine abuse that leaves you with a skeevy feeling.

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We Finally Get to Hear ‘How He Met Their Mother’

How I Met Your Mother started out great. I was super into it for several seasons, but it gradually lost its appeal as we all realized–hey, they aren’t actually going to tell us how he met his kids’ mother until the very frakking end. Gratefully, the show has been picked up for it’s ninth and final season, so we will finally hear the end of that story. Now, I can appreciate formulating a show based on where’ it is going, but that doesn’t mean you just twiddle your thumbs for eight freaking seasons until you are about to get cancelled and then finally tell us your point. If anything, it would have been more interesting to see how Ted met “the one” and then show us the ups and downs of the relationship before ending it with, say, having a kid, showing that this is in fact the mother of his children and not just another girlfriend or fiancée or even wife (because wife does not necessarily equal mother of one’s children).

Yet despite my qualms with the show, I have kept up with watching it for a few key reasons. Reason #1: Neal Patrick Harris. I love that man so much. And it is a severe detriment to womankind that he loves men, and at the same time a great tribute to humankind for being such a fine example of a happy gay man with beautiful children and a lovely, happy family. I also love the fact that his partner plays Scooter in HIMYM.

Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof join in the Halloween fun as they dress up as seahorses with their daughters Satyana and Keeva, in Los AngelesWhich brings me to my next favorite thing about the show: all of the cameos from my favorites, especially those from Whedon shows. Not only is Alyson Hannigan a brilliant member of the regular cast, they have also brought in her husband Alexis Denisof  and former on-screen lover Seth Green, and many more Whedon alums (plus Cobie Smulders is now participating in the Whedonverse–what a lucky gal with all her connections). I’m seriously waiting for the day they bring in Amber Benson and finally let Lilly indulge in her overt lesbian fantasies.

Also, reason #3: Jason Segel. Need I say more?

But most of all I am looking forward to finally getting this shit wrapped up. No matter ho much I love the show, it needs to stop stringing us a long, and finally give a conclusive answer to the question of “How I Met Your Mother.” It’s unfortunate that they won’t keep going after this final 9th season, because I’m sure there’s much more they could do without still avoiding that question, but at least they will (hopefully) conclude with a solid resolution that satisfies us all.

What do you think? Are you glad HIMYM is finally coming to an end? Or do you think they should keep going with it, even after Ted meets his “soul mate”? Tell me in the comments!

‘How I Met Your Mother’ officially renewed for FINAL season

The Magician's Code Part One

It’s official! After extensive negotiations, CBS has renewed How I Met Your Mother for a ninth season.

And this rumor is now confirmed too: Next season will mark the long-running comedy’s final outing.

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Mixed Feelings About ‘Mama’

Last night I saw Mama and was actually surprised–it was better than I thought it would be. It has compelling characters, a psychologically-driven story, and it actually gave me the willies on multiple occasions, something I have not experienced from a horror film in quite some time. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some failings, though.

The young girls give chilling performances. Their situation as feral children was especially intriguing to me, as I fancied myself a linguistics major for a stint in undergrad, and it was the gripping stories of Genie and Victor that really drew me to the field. Their lives reveal that we are all mere animals, products of our upbringing, and demonstrate the incredible difficulty of altering those behaviors we learn in our formative years. Mama reflects this to a certain extent, as the younger girl, Lilly, retains much of her animalistic characteristics and behaviors, yet the older girl, Victoria, is able to go back to being essentially a normal child (despite a spirit wanting to be her mother) after a short period of time–something that I find a bit unlikely.

Annabel (Jessica Chastain), while a bit of an exaggerated cliché of a punk rocker chick at least offered a new kind of protagonist for the classic woman-caring-for-creepy-children horror trope in that she actually has a personality. In addition, I find her quite relatable, as I share in her taboo desire to not have children (::gasp:: What kind of awful woman doesn’t want to be a mother??). Best of all, she injects some much-needed bluntness and humor into the film, as she is completely straight with the girls, showing that she doesn’t like their situation either, and when they do something ridiculous she asks them “Are you shitting me??”

Her boyfriend Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), on the other hand, is one-dimensional and mysteriously absent for most of the movie. He literally adds nothing to the story, except for being the girls’ uncle and therefore the one who was so dedicated to finding them in the first place. This is unfortunate, as his presence during the various eerie events could have contributed a different perspective on the situation.

Mama herself is far scarier when she isn’t seen, and a disappointment when she is. She offers an interesting backstory, complete with an explanation of why this spirit still lingers and her motivations for doing what she is doing, a complete necessity, in my opinion, for any horror film or bad guy in general. How it ends, though, is incredibly weak, and without giving away any spoilers, I must simply say two things: Mama doesn’t follow traditional lore of resolving a ghost’s unfinished business, and it attempts to pull at your heartstrings after almost no emotional set-up.

Have you seen Mama? What did you think of it? Did it meet your expectations? Check out this lucid and well-reasoned review, which talks a little bit more about the weaknesses of this film as well as its missed opportunities.

‘Mama’ Has Its Moments… and Its Miscalculations
Bill Gibron @ PopMatters

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Director Andres Muschietti has taken his celebrated short and expanded it out over 100 unnecessary minutes. The result screams for editing instead of eliciting shrieks from the audience.

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