Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: The Happening (2008)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray...
-Alfred Joyce Kilmer


Who would have guessed that the world would end (sort of...) with a whimper instead of a bang? At least if we consider the "revenge of nature" story depicted in the new film, The Happening. In this film, man's destruction is carried like a whisper on the wind.

Of this, however, I do know for certain: the cinematic works of writer/director M. Night Shyamalan tend to fiercely divide modern film-goers. Some of the smartest, most film centric people I know despise his work deeply. And they have their reasons. I've heard them, and I respect them.

Others - of equally good taste, I hasten to add - find the director's work fascinating and love with a passion every film he's crafted. His titles, in case you've forgotten include: The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2001), Signs (2002), The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006) and this summer's The Happening (2008).

Personally, I enjoy Shyamalan's work very much. I admire a few of his films with reservations (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable), love a few of them with admittedly irrational exuberance (Signs, The Village) and am deeply, irrevocably conflicted about one (Lady in the Water). As for The Happening...the good news is that it's far better than Lady in the Water.


But the reason I consistently appreciate M. Night Shyamalan as a filmmaker is that he -- like John Carpenter, Mira Nair or even Rob Zombie -- makes films that are uniquely his own. They come straight from his soul; from his heart and you ALWAYS know when you are watching one of his efforts. It is impossible to mistake his work for that of any other director. That fact alone certainly doesn't mean his films are always perfect (any more than every Carpenter or Zombie film is perfect...) but in today's suffocating climate of cookie-cutter blockbusters, Shyamalan's work stands apart as that of a true individual; a true artist. Love him or hate him, you can't deny that his films represent the consistent oeuvre of one (sometimes flawed) storyteller. I find his individuality refreshing and commendable, and when people are bashing him, what they are really saying, I think, is: that's not my thing. He's not my guy.
Okay, well that's not always the case either...but that's what I sense when I hear intelligent people complain about his work. Like I said, they have their reasons and those reasons are valid...it's sort of just how you weigh those flaws against other facets of his work, I guess, that results in your binary decision of "thumbs up" or "thumbs down."

The most ill-founded criticism of Shyamalan comes from my own peeps, alas -- film critics taking pot shots at his films over "the twist" ending scenarios portrayed in his features. Pick-up any mainstream review of a Shymalan film in a newspaper and you'll find critics who are complaining that the twist either works (meaning they didn't see it coming...) or that it doesn't (meaning they saw it coming and guessed it correctly). Sometimes different critics report different problems with the same twist ending, which shows you just how hard it is to please people.

For example, the reviews I've read about The Happening tend to be disappointed because there is no twist ending. So now Shyamalan is being reviewed on the basis of what's not in his film? Nice. I think this really stinks; and is brutally unfair to the artist: to reduce a director's work to whether or not there is a twist ending and whether or not it subjectively works. If Rod Serling were making The Twilight Zone today, I bet he'd get the same wrong-headed notices. Why do I say they are wrong headed? Well, in my experience you can't judge an entire film on whether or not you were successfully tricked...that's just poor movie reviewing.

Secondly, after watching all of Shyamalan's films several times (save for The Happening, which I've seen just once), I would argue that the director doesn't make films with twist endings at all. Critics just misperceive them that way.

On the contrary, Shyamalan makes films that reveal more than one perspective. We are watching them from one perspective, only to learn -- often in the last act -- that our perception, our perspective was wrong to begin with. We often learn this fact right beside the main characters, which makes the characters sometimes tragic; sometimes all the more human. Technically, this approach isn't a twist: rather this is a clever director dramatizing for us a story from a variety of angles. If he cheats all the way through, there's reason to be angry, I suppose. If he's consistent and we're surprised or touched, I suggest we have reason to feel satisfied. How many films even have one perspective to begin with? In M. Night Shyamalan's work we are fortunate enough to have a filmmaker who can see that his story has shades; and more to the point -- reveal to us those shades. That takes talent, and no small amount of subtlety. We think we're seeing one thing; but we're actually seeing something else all together.

Tell me: the second time you watch The Sixth Sense, what's the "twist?" Ditto Unbreakable? And heck, what's the twist the first time you watch Signs?
See? Critics have pigeonholed Shyamalan as a "twist" director and so they all review every one of his films based on that viewpoint. And, if you'll forgive the pun -- given the subject matter of The Happening - they've missed the forest for the trees in the process.

Again, I'm not saying you'll like every film this guy makes. I'm just saying that he makes distinctive, individual films (a good thing, no?) and that it is wrong for critics to judge him entirely on the misperception that his films must feature a twist ending. And on top of that, a GREAT twist ending.

Now, I've made the claim that M. Night Shyamalan's films are unique and individual, and so I need to back up that assertion by mentioning a few of his consistent conceits (besides the multiple perception bit). In all of Shyamalan's films (save for Lady in the Water), for example, we see strongly the director's sense of morality. Not his moralizing, mind you, but his morality. And by that, I mean simply that he presents a moral universe where a family unit of some type is forced to countenance with...a happening, for lack of a better word. Sometimes the family unit is "unofficial" (not biological); but there's always a parental figure and a child (or young person) involved in some capacity. In the course of the film, and often because of the "happening," the family learns to move past tragedy and grow closer. You could even argue that the family in Lady in the Water is actually a community - a larger family, I suppose. Regardless, Shyamalan clearly has an affinity for blending regular family life with the unreal and super-real (whether ghosts, an alien invasion, superheroes, mermaids, or a deadly plague).

But what separates Shyamalan from another family-oriented director (like, say, Spielberg), is that he genuflects to the reality of unhappy endings in life. A mother is killed in Signs. A small girl loses both her biological parents in The Happening, and so forth. There's a shocking scene in this film when two young boys are shot in cold blood. In these tragedies, the survivors don't merely learn to grow closer, they somehow express a dawning sense of spirituality; and an acknowledgment of their interconnectedness. This is not religiosity (which is totally different), but true spirituality. Things like fate (in who survives and who doesn't) and belief and synchronicity are examined in the director's films in the most oblique and often wonderful ways.

I believe that these twin ideas of synchronicity and spirituality are the most important factor in Shyamalan's films, and that's why he often sets his climaxes in small, unspectacular settings. A swimming pool (Unbreakable, Lady in the Water), or basements (Signs, The Happening). It's an unconventional choice - and an uncommercial one as well, but perfectly in keeping with Shyamalan's storytelling ethos. His stories aren't about the alien invasions, superheroes, ghosts or deadly happenings, but rather our simple, emotional, grasping, human response to them.

I am perfectly willing to admit this is my bias but I love that idea. When so many films are satisfied with the lowest common denominator, I welcome the lens of Shyamalan's world view. He may occasionally talk down to us; but he universally comes from a place of intelligence, morality and heart, and frankly those qualities are often missing from today's blockbusters. There is nothing canned or phoned-in lurking in Shyamalan's vision, and even if his vision is occasionally schmaltzy, I dig it. A lot. Mea culpa.

So The Happening? Honestly, It boasts in roughly the same percentages the same strengths and the same flaws as Shyamalan's other films. It is long on heart and short on spectacle. It is long on humanity but short, occasionally, on plot. Like much of his work, it straddles the line between being absolutely inspired and absolutely derivative. At times it stretches for brilliance and achieves it, and at other times it retracts to basic truisms and hackneyed explanations that leave you cursing at their banality.

The film's storyline involves a science teacher Elliott Moore (Mark Wahlberg) who is estranged from his wife, Alma (Zooey Deschanel). One day, this couple (and dozens of other citizens...) flee Philadelphia when what appears to be a terrorist nerve gas attack is responsible for the (gruesome) deaths of many New Yorkers. The attack begins in Central Park, but before long, it seems to be following the Moores to rural Pennsylvania. They continue to flee, in ever smaller population circles, as the entire North East is decimated by an attack that seems to be carried on the wind, but which originates not with foreign fighters...but with Mother Nature.

As I wrote above, this is "Revenge of Nature" film like Frogs (1972), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) and Day of the Animals (1977). You know the meme:-- man's pollution causes nature to go haywire in response and self-correction. Only The Happening takes a vegetarian slant on the threat, an idea that has been explored in the sci-fi genre for generations (notably in One Step Beyond's "Moment of Hate" and Space:1999's "The Troubled Spirit.") But perhaps the closest antecedent for The Happening is Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, The Birds (1963). There, as you will recall, a swarm of birds suddenly and inexplicably went on the attack and nearly took out an entire town. There was no explanation for the battle and the bird assault ended as mysteriously as it began. Same deal here, save for an entirely unnecessary explanatory coda (more like Psycho than The Birds), in which a talking-head on a cable news show makes an entirely too heavy-handed environmental point. I liked the the message and the metaphor (that by destroying nature we are killing ourselves), but I didn't need the spoon-feeding.

Still, The Happening carries a commendable aura of impending, escalating doom. Put simply, the movie is never less than utterly spellbinding. The characters also grow on you considerably, and viewers will find themselves invested in their survival. John Leguizamo plays a character who sees his end coming from a distance, and his performance is haunting and memorable. The Happening also forges a unique threat unlike any seen before, and makes it clear that this threat is inescapable. Most importantly, the film focuses on the ties that bind us (and the reasons they bind us...) and finds humanity at both his most noble and his most ugly (depending on the person) in a time of crisis.

So sue me: I really, really liked this movie. Yet I have a creeping suspicion I will be one of the few (along with Roger Ebert). Some of you may not like The Happening at all. If you go, try to see it with your mind and heart open and the "twist" you may find at film's end is that there's a lot to inspire you here.

15 comments:

  1. You eyein' my lemon drink, Muir?

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  2. Priyanka3:05 AM

    I couldn't agree more. Most people miss the point entirely - it's not about the supernatural or ghostly settings, but the human spirit really.

    I'm from India, and am able to speak about those people who wait in anticipation of a Shyamalan movie only to be terribly disappointed after having seen it.

    Well, to begin with, let's label more than half of these people as ones without the ability to think beyond the traditional "Happyville to Troubleville and back." But the other side is the marketing angle. Shyamalan movies are always packaged as sci-fi thrillers, much like a War of the Worlds or Aliens (where, in my opinion, things are the way they are and I'm not saying these are any less spectacular movies. I terribly enjoy them for what they are - wonderfully entertaining blockbusters.)

    So, my point is that people walk into a cinema expecting what they are lead to expect; the "twist" as you put it. I'm not surprised then, that most expectations fail and some are reversed (and these are very very few). I keep telling my friends, "You just don't get it! It about the humanity, the triumph of the human spirit. That's what's so endearing about his movies."

    I suppose I've rambled on for too long here; and I'm not an expert on films. But I just wanted to get my regular movie buff opinions across.

    :)

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  3. Priyanka:

    Thank you for writing to share your thoughts on Shyamalan and his films.+ I agree that much of the problem involves marketing and mainstream criticism: everyone is obsessed with a "twist," which isn't the point at all.

    It's sort of depressing to scour all the film web sites and read how Shyamalan has disappointed viewers since The Sixth Sense. It's like everyone is trying to re-capture one magical experience or something; one that can't really be repeated.

    Thanks for dropping by!
    JKM

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  4. It's not that the man is untalented - he's clearly proven that he is. But I think that the whole "the new Spielberg"/"the new Hitchcock" b.s. clearly went to his head.

    6th Sense - good movie, but vastly overrated. But Bruce Willis' and Haley Joel Osment's performances are what got everyone, plus the very deliberate pacing.

    Unbreakable - his best film, IMO. Most say that the epilogue was unnecessary and ruined the film. Those people are comic geeks... woe to the man who attempts to make comic geeks happy.

    All the elements made for a very satisfactory film experience - despite some encroaching silliness that becomes more pronounced with each successive film (here, it's the scene where Willis' gun holds a gun on him, preparing to shoot.)

    About this time is when the hype machinery starts really going... and the entire "twist" ending that somehow became a trademark.

    Did he ask for that? No, probably not... a smarter man would have stretched himself further and eschewed the 'twist' -- but instead it was embraced... then we came to SIGNS.

    From the teaser trailer, I pretty much twigged that it would have something to do with the spiritual, and actually was looking forward to the film... And I would say that 90% of the film was very effective. Unfortunately, it's also one of the few films where 10% can TOTALLY KILL any sort of goodwill built up by the remaining 90%

    You know what I'm talking about - the flashback and "Swing away!"
    That 10% immediately opened up the floodgates to notice all the little flaws, which led to seeing the huge holes in the story.

    Strike #1.

    Then THE VILLAGE was next - and here, the realization that the man is basically making feature length TWILIGHT ZONE episodes and attempting to be as deep as Rod Serling REALLY became apparent... you could figure out what the story was going to be even from the trailer.

    Some cracks start appearing - the script is leaked online, prompting some reshooting of the ending.

    As for THE VILLAGE - if MNS' goal is to be Rod Serling, then I wish that he'd pick another episode other than I AM THE NIGHT... COLOR ME BLACK for a template.

    Strike #2.

    LADY IN THE WATER.

    If it were any other writer/director working in the Hollywood system who had turned in something like this, and insisted that it didn't need reworking, they'd have booted him out of town.

    Maybe someone with a really solid vision could have done this... if it had come from somewhere in Asia or Europe, they'd probably be singing the film's praises.

    Unfortunately, it wasn't and it didn't... and unfortunately, there exists a book length document that proves that the studio WAS RIGHT!

    Never a good thing, that...

    So, Strike #3...

    Down, but not Out - Yet.

    THE HAPPENING.

    My opinion - a very decent premise that is completely foiled by ham-handed execution.

    The man needs to get hungry again.

    The man needs to have someone to tell him NO, IT SUCKS.

    The man needs to realize that if he's indeed the next Spielberg/Hitchcock, then he's started off in the latter stages of their careers... and that ain't a good place to be.

    Perhaps Avatar might be the kick in the creative butt that he needs to get back on track - because if Avatar underperforms, then he's not going to be in a good place.

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  5. Hey Robert!

    Interesting observations on M. Night. Thanks for writing them. This is a topic that really fascinates me.

    The point where we see things slightly differently is SIGNS, I think.

    I never saw it in the theater, and I had heard about some of the problems (the aliens are hurt by water? Bad!) so when I saw the film, my expectations were relatively low and I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the film (as you said, 90 percent) works.

    That's still an A in my book (as opposed to what you noted, about the other 10 percent ruining it). Again, this may be because of what I expected going in.

    I really love The Village. Again, critics were hating all over it, and this time I saw it in the theater with my entire family (wife and parents) and everybody I was with loved it too. Again, I have to admit, I insulated myself from the marketing ("the hype") as much as possible and just had a good time with the film. I tried to avoid the expectations game and again, was pleased with the film.

    I saw The Happening with a full auditorium and everyone seemed to love the film. Which makes me wonder if M. Night just really turns off a certain segment of audience, a very vocal segment. I don't know. I'm just guessin' here...

    Your comments are intelligent, thoughtful and well-taken, so I don't consider you a "hater" but I do have to wonder why M. Night provokes such anger in people. Not you, just in general. I read the comments in IMDB and people seemed personally offended by The Happening.

    These are the same people who will rush to the defense of The 40 Year Old Virgin and The Wedding Crashers...absolutely mindless, safe shit that reinforces old tropes and makes people feel secure. Stuff that didn't challenge them or their beliefs.

    I mean, critics are savaging The Happening with a passion, when there are far worse films out there (like, I guess, The Love Guru). But along comes something weird, something with flaws but something of interest, like The Happening...and what happens?

    M. Night may fail, he may make a flawed film, but his work still trades on ideas and interesting concepts, as you readily acknowledge is the case with The Happening. The ridicule he receives (not from you, understand...) is just...odd to me. It's one thing to present cogent criticism of his film (as you did), it's quite another to attack the guy (which you didn't do).

    Finally, it's funny that you noted Europe and how the film may play there. The Happening was the number one film in Europe last week. It knocked out The Hulk.

    Now, I haven't seen The Hulk. It may be an absolutely great film. But it is a sequel to a re-imagination with a familiar character and a familiar story (superheroes fight it out!). It says something important about critics and audiences today that The Hulk -- essentially well-done leftovers, I'm guessing -- receives more praise than the work of an artist who attempted something original. Maybe he failed, but at the very least he wasn't relying on a franchise name, a familiar character, an archetypal story, etc. He seems to get no creds for that. No quarter, even.

    So in the final analysis, that may be the reason I'm willing to give M. Night Shyamalan a longer leash than I would some other directors. Even his weaker films still carry his stylistic trademarks; even his weaker films say something interesting about the human spirit. I'm willing to have a "flawed" experience with his films, because at the very least I know I'm going to see something I haven't necessarily seen before.

    I also must admit my bias here: I am a huge admirer of the morality plays of Rod Serling, and I do see a connection between Serling and Shyamalan. Both make tales of social commentary in the fantasy/horror/sci fi venue.

    I believe that as the years go by, and so much of the CGI dross disappears from memory, the genre will remember (and debate...) the works of M. Night. They'll stand out. They're different. They're occasionally infuriating. But they are singular in their world view, and I imagine they'll stand the test of time pretty well. Even if people don't appreciate the films now.

    -JKM

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  6. I think that most of the 'hating' comes from him being overhyped... Kim Newman pulls out the Racism card, but I don't think that really plays a lot into it - although it helps in thinking up cruel variations in his name.

    And I think that the overhype has led to a certain amount of creative coasting. For me, SIGNS was extremely maddening precisely because that 90% was so good and that last 10% totally took me out of the experience.

    I'll use RAIDERS as an example - there's quite a few holes in RAIDERS, but there aren't any missteps in the experience... the journey is good, the payoff is excellent, you're satisfied, so no need to go nitpicking.

    SIGNS has a great set up, yet fumbles the payoff badly... "No, I did NOT just sit though 90 minutes just for THAT!" You're not happy... glasses of water - water corrosive to aliens... then how are they running around in dewy, fog enshrouded cornfields? Matter of fact, why would they even come to a planet that's 90% water...

    and so on.

    Yes, there are worse films and people who truly deserve scorn other than MNS... but he's not helping himself, either. The words "one trick pony" have started popping up more frequently -- not that there's anything bad in being a "one trick pony"; until people start getting tired of the trick.
    And I think he's at that point.

    The new Verizon "Dead Zone" commercials are a pretty good parody of MNS' style.

    I think that he needs to stretch himself a bit more and show that he's more versatile than people perceive him to be now... and doing a few scripts that he hasn't written himself could help a lot also.

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  7. Robert:

    I agree with virtually everything you wrote there in that last post.

    I remember thinking exactly the same thing in Signs about the aliens (boy, if water is harmful to them, they came to the wrong planet, didn't they?)

    But, I also admit, every now and then, Rod Serling's TZone would hit me that exact same way. The astronauts in "Probe 7 Over and Out" were...Adam and Eve!! And they crashed their spaceship on Earth!!!!

    You know, it's disappointing and simplistic, but if there's a higher cause, I'm generally okay with it.

    I feel like "Probe 7" on TZone was a parable about war; and I guess I feel that "Signs" tapped into some quality of humanity (and family) that made the trip - and even that simplistic ending - worthwhile. I fully realize that my preference (as I said, my bias...) will not be the same as someone else's.

    In the end, the simplistic resolution to "Signs" didn't ruin the experience for me, but it was certainly a letdown after the superb first 90 percent of the film.

    I also want to point out that I don't think The Happening is a great movie, just a much more interesting movie than it is being given credit for. as I say in my review, it features the same problems in basically the same proportions as Shymalan's other films (but also the same strengths).

    Thanks for writing!!
    JKM

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  8. Point taken...

    However, most of the effective TZ's were about a half hour.

    Feature length.... *meh*

    Something (thankfully) off-topic -- any chance that THE HOUSE BETWEEN will show up on disc with commentary and such?

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  9. Good point about running time, Robert.

    And hey, thanks for asking about The House Between.

    It will be appearing on DVD after the third season is run in January-March 09, and we have already recorded several commentary tracks for episodes of the first two seasons.

    -JKM

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  10. Hi John,

    I agree with many of your points on M. Night Shyamalan. Personally he is one of my favorite directors. He has such a unique style and I think his movies will stand the test of time, unlike others. His shots have so much thought put into them.

    MNS does goof up obvious scientific issues (like the water and some of theories in The Happening are pushing it a bit), but I don’t see any of his movies as science fiction. I see them as fantasy, so I try not to judge it from a scifi lens.

    I think Avatar will be great for MNS. A way for him to leave his comfort zone and help critics see him as something other than a Hitchcock that specializes in twist endings (which he isn't, but everyone judges him that way).

    I felt that The Happening was a good film that was simplified a little trying to reach the mainstream audience. I didn't like it as well as Sixth Sense or Signs, but I do feel it was better than Lady in the Water or The Village.

    And congrats on the SyFy Genre nomination for The House Between! Good luck and remember to vote. The Web Production category is a tough one this year.

    -marX

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  11. Hey marX,

    I re-watched The Village, Lady in the Water and Unbreakable this weekend and I loved all of 'em (even Lady in the Water) all over again.

    I think that your suggestion to look at MNS's films as fantasy (rather than hard sci-fi) is a good notion. I agree with you about his sense of composition and mise-en-scene: that's one of my enduring fascinations with him. And that's why I think he merits all those high-minded comparisons to Hitchcock and Spielberg.

    And marX -- thank you for all of your coverage of The House Between this year. I don't know if anyone's told you yet, but we have two characters come in for an episode in the third season; named "Pyle" and "Hinman..." in honor of yours (and Michael's...) work at Sy Fy Portal. Of course, they die horribly... :)

    I'm definitely going to encourage everyone I can to vote for THB, because we're up against corporate titans like Star Trek and Sanctuary...

    best,
    JKM

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  12. I can't say how much I really did not like this movie. And I'm generally not a Shyamalan hater. I loved Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable and even The Village. I refused to see Lady in the Water because even critics who still liked those past films I mentioned did not like this film. And to be so despised that a booke was written about how this movie would ruin M. Night made me think, eh, a man is entitled to a mistake. I'll pretend not to see it and will be excited to see his next feature. And I was. And against the urging of my friends and many other people, I went to the cheap theater and paid $2 to see it. And I regretted almost every moment of it.

    There's a lot of commentary on the overall themes of the movie and the morality that this movie wishes to make. But lets look at the finer details of this movie.

    1. One friend of mine summed this up nicely. Both main actors seem like 6 year old kids trapped in adult bodies. They talk and act like they have no idea how bad it is that people are dying everywhere and that they may be next. People are killing themselves around them and yet the only character I remember showing any real fright about this is a woman in the jeep with Leguizamo. A guy gets eaten by lions. Barely an eye is batted.

    2. Dialogue. Horrible. Case in point. There's a scene where the main characters turn around and go back down a road after seeing that death awaits them further ahead. At a fork in the road, back the way they came, they meet an army guy. What is his line? (And so sad that it was from the mildly attractive Jeremy Strong). " Um. There seems to be bodies tangled in the barbed wire back there. You probably shouldn't go that way" Ugh... Deadpan voice, no fear, nothing. He said this like it happens everyday.

    Case 2. The diner scene after the news broadcast. If you were in the middle of nowhere PA (and I lived there most of my life so I know a little about it) how could you tell that it was "safe" exactly 90 miles West when you have no idea where you are now? Ridiculous.

    These are just some examples but I found that this happened continously throughout the film. No one in the theater I was in enjoyed the film for what it was. Most of us enjoyed laughing through it just to make it to the end. This is a bad film. And like a previous poster commented, if M. Night's name was not on this movie, it would not have been released and people wouldn't be so adament in defending it.

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  13. Rory Doody3:37 PM

    I've enjoyed every one of Shyamalan's movies. The Happening is an intense experience - unpredictable even. I have two criticisms however.
    Firstly, Shyamalan gives his characters dialogue (and rhythms of speech) that create the impression of only one voice in the story. This is most evident in The Village (everyone talks in a similar pattern of speech - although I understand this is a deliberate attempt to evoke a period/setting) and The Happening (everyone seems a little too eccentric). This is least evident in The Sixth Sense - each character in that movie had their own life and personality.
    The second problem I have with The Happening is Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel's performances. I think the way the script forces them to speak is partly to blame but neither actor seems committed to the movie and their roles are largely passive. This creates a void at the centre of the movie - we don't root for them the way we did for Mel Gibson's family in Signs or Bryce Dallas Howards blind heroine in The Village.
    Still, I've watched The Happening several times now and it continues to horrify me - the suspense is palpable and the zoo and lawnmower sequences forced me to close my eyes on a primal level. It certainly doesn't deserve the negative reputation it has garnered.

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  14. Hey John,

    I thought you would appreciate this for a laugh:

    http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1940892

    The Village is one of my favorite films. Shyamalan brilliant captures the atmosphere from the perspective of those being duped. And the final reveal turns the ominous feeling to one of pathos.

    As for The Happening, while I wholeheartedly agree that it is unique and interesting, I have to agree with the last commentor's observation that there is a big void in the center of the film due to, in particular, Mark Wahlberg's performance. I'm sorry but I just did not buy his character.

    Out of curiousity, thoughts on Avatar?...

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  15. Henry,

    That video was hysterical -- if cruel -- but really well-done. Thanks for sending it. I got a huge kick out of it!

    I love The Village, and I can't disagree with you about Wahlberg's performance. It just didn't work for the film. (In part because Wahlberg, even acting, just can't appear smart.)

    I haven't seen Last Airbender/Avatar yet, but I've heard really bad things about it...

    best,
    JKM

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