Sometimes I feel like a bad geek because I’m not as crazy about Guillermo del Toro as most. I think he makes very pretty movies to look at that don’t go much deeper than that for me. There’s a tendency to idolize him because we see him as “one of us”; he’s a movie geek too, and I think there’s some projection going on where we see a bit of ourselves in him, and therefore want him to succeed. Not that he doesn’t have stylistic chops to spare, I just wish the substance in his films was up to the same level. So while the trailers for Crimson Peak and lush and gothic and moody, I can’t quite shake the feeling that the film will end up resembling the haunted house its been so carefully constructed to mimic: full of surface thrills that ultimately evaporate once you’re out into the light of day. Still, this is a film from a director with an actual artistic vision and not someone just notching an entry in a franchise for a studio, and if there’s a time of year for a simple haunted house movie, we’re definitely in it. This also strikes me as worth seeing on a big screen rather than at home.
I never read any of the Goosebumps books, but I remember their mid- to late-90s ubiquity. Those things were everywhere, from bookstore shelves to middle school backpacks to the shaking hands of those same middle schoolers. Which is why I’m expecting the big screen Goosebumps to win the box office this weekend; all those tweens are now grown up, and the nostalgic lure of scaring their own kids with what once scared them could be too much to resist. That the film seems to be putting a clever spin on things — R.L. Stine writing his stories to keep the evil beasties contained and then those same beasties being unwittingly unleashed — won’t hurt its appeal, and might even draw in those like me for whom the books are cultural footnote rather than touchstone. This will also be a test for Jack Black’s big screen appeal, which, outside of voice the Kung Fu Panda films, hasn’t been all that high lately. But we’re deep into Halloween season, everyone who was going to see Hotel Transylvania 2 has probably seen it, and so this will likely rake in the dollars and send parents up to the attic to dig out their old books for their kids.
But come on. Like I’m not going to put a new Steven Spielberg movie in the top spot here. Do you people know nothing about me? Besides, I saw Bridge of Spies last night and it’s easily one of the best films of the year; I’d maybe put it just a notch below Sicario, but that’s because Spielberg and Tom Hanks make things look so effortless, it’s easy to almost take the film for granted. Like many of Spielberg’s post-Saving Private Ryan films, it’s the kind of movie that would be a career pinnacle for a lot of other directors, and that Spielberg can make this look so easy after over forty years in the director’s chair is a testament to just how gifted he is. It’s a story whose outcome was essentially spoiled fifty years ago, and yet Spielberg and Hanks make it a tense, gripping tale filled with both of their trademark humanity and warmth. People might still hold it against him for “ruining” the movies and spawning the summer blockbuster, but we’re genuinely lucky to still have him active and producing such quality work for as long as he has been. He’s a treasure, and this film is another jewel.
So get out of the house! Skip a football game or two! There’s good stuff out there to see! Your DVR will still be nice and full when you get back.