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REVIEW: Music of the Heart – In memory of Wes Craven

September 5, 2015 1 comment
Music of the HeartDirected by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Susan Kaplan, Marianne Maddalena, Allan Miller, Walter Scheuer
Written by: Pamela Gray
Edited by: Gregg Featherman, Patrick Lussier
Cinematography by: Peter Deming
Music by: Mason Daring (score), Diane Warren (theme)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Gloria Estefan, Aidan Quinn, Cloris Leachman, Jane Leeves, Jean-Luke Figueroa, Olga Merediz, Kieran Culkin, Charlie Hofheimer, Rosalyn Coleman, Michael Angarano, Josh Pais, Henry Dinhofer, Justin “DJ” Spaulding
Based on a true story and inspired by the 1995 documentary Small Wonders by Allan Miller
Year: 1999

 

Wes Craven was in many ways my gateway to appreciating horror. Though I had seen and enjoyed horror films prior to anything he had made, Craven was the one who enabled me to dig further into the classic slasher movies that most people think of when they discuss the genre. When I first decided to dedicate the month of October to horror films, three of the first movies I reviewed were Wes Craven-directed: The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. During that time, my unfavorable review of the first Elm Street film actually caught the attention of a group from pretty much the fan site for the series, and this encouraged me to review a few more of the films, including the Craven-produced Dream Warriors and the aforementioned New Nightmare, both of which I actually enjoyed more than the first.

Before even this, however, there was Scream, the film that both celebrated and satirized the genre Craven had helped form. Now, I actually saw the third film in the series first at a sleepover back in 7th or 8th grade, and even though it’s considered the weakest of the series, and though I had no familiarity with the characters to have much context for what was going on, I actually had a good time with it, and I subsequently sought out the rest of the films at the time and enjoyed those even more! During my time as a horror genre-hater, the Scream series remained my one exception whenever horror movies came up as a topic of conversation, as they were more fun than truly terrifying to me. It soon became apparent, however, that I really should see the movies that Scream was deconstructing, and so this actually put the pressure on me to finally give films like the Elm Street movies, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and even The Cabin in the Woods their fair chance. I didn’t always like them, but the process itself has been enjoyable, and I feel like the pressure has certainly given me a new perspective and appreciation for the genre as a whole.

Sadly, Wes Craven suddenly passed away this week after a quiet battle with brain cancer, and I actually felt a pretty great sense of personal loss when I heard the news. I’ve still yet to see other famous films of his like People Under the Stairs and The Hills Have Eyes, but Craven had unbeknownst to me actually cemented himself in my mind as a filmmaker I still greatly appreciated, if only because of his indirect encouragement to branch out in my movie habits. Craven will always be remembered for his work in the horror genre, but instead of reviewing one of those famous horror films, I figured I’d do something a bit different and honor the guy by reviewing his own foray into unfamiliar territory, the often forgotten Music of the Heart, a sentimental based-on-a-true-story drama that has been sitting in my Netflix instant viewing queue for quite a while ever since I randomly glanced at the name “Wes Craven” being tied to a film that had Meryl Streep, Angela Basset, and Gloria Estefan in the film’s poster. Read more…

Review: “The Cabin in the Woods”

October 1, 2012 6 comments
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Produced by: Joss Whedon,
Written by: Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon
Cinematography by: Peter Deming
Music by: David Julyan
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White, Amy Acker
Year: 2012

 

I don’t claim to be an expert on horror films. Last year, when I did my first Scary Movie Month, I ended up getting schooled by a group of Nightmare on Elm Street fans, who took me to task for not getting the point of the first film. Throughout that month, I struggled to gain a greater appreciation for the horror genre, particularly through the classic slasher films — Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Last House on the Left and its remake… Aside from just providing me with an opportunity to list all those films and link to my reviews, my point is that I’m not particularly fond of these types of films, aside from Halloween, which surprised me with its elegance, and the two Nightmare sequels I reviewed, Dream Warriors and New Nightmare, which ended up being more fun than I anticipated.

I do, however, like Scream and even its three sequels, which were fun, self-aware tributes to the slasher sub-genre while also being fairly well constructed horror thrillers in their own right, to varying degrees. But after this? It’s kind of hard to really think of that many subversive horror films that manage to capture that same sense of fun, creativity, and terror without reiterating everything that’s been said before. Lucky for me, then, that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard knew exactly how take that formula and turn it on its head, yet again, and with The Cabin in the Woods, they not only send up the horror genre in a loving manner, but also lament the lack of creativity that has pervaded the genre in the past few years and all the factors that led to the genre’s stagnation. Read more…

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