Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: October 22, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr puts on his ghostbusting gear to take on the two big spiritual flicks in the theaters. He suffers through a tsunami in Hereafter and struggles even more to get through Clint Eastwood’s latest Oscar-bait flick. Then he sets up a stationary video camera to capture any strange goings-on while he sleeps. He plans to sell the film to Paramount as Paranormal Activity 3: More Shots of Nothing Happening.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Neil Miller and he meet up in the Magical Studio in the Sky to discuss this week’s new releases.

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Studio: Warner Bros.

Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language

Starring: Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind and Cécile De France

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

What it’s about: A woman survives the tsunami. A British boy suffers a great family loss. And Matt Damon can talk to dead people. That’s about it.

What I liked: On a technical level, Hereafter is well put together, and Clint Eastwood does a decent job orchestrating a big special effects action sequence at the beginning with the recreation of the devastating tsunami. And it’s well acted, sure.

What I didn’t: Each year, Clint gives us one or two directorial films primed for Oscar season. Unfortunately, Hereafter has more in common with last year’s Invictus than his other good movies like Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby.

My biggest beef with Hereafter is that nothing happens. Instead, you have characters moping around through their lives, dealing with various tragedies in their lives. There’s scenes which could lead to something – including the tsunami survivor meeting with a scientist about the real possibilities of an afterlife – but those scenes fizzle into nothingness.

I respect the hell out of Clint Eastwood, but this film might be the first indication that he’s getting too old to direct. Sitting through this movie is like sitting behind an 80-year-old man going 40 miles per hour on the freeway.

Who is gonna like this movie: Old people. And Matt Damon.

Grade: D

Studio: Paramount

Rated: R for some language and brief violent material

Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloane and Sprague Grayden

Directed by: Tod Williams

What it’s about: This highly-anticipated sequel to the 2009 box office smash hit tells the story of Kate’s sister and her family. More cameras are set up to capture more startling moments and things that go bump in the night.

What I liked: I loved the first Paranormal Activity for bringing back the theatrical experience. Sure, it was a gimmick, but the gimmick worked. And that gimmick is set to the same music for Paranormal Activity 2… almost beat-for-beat.

I will admit that there are some good startling moments that will make the audience jump. And the stakes are raised a bit, bringing a young child into the mix of danger. But aside from that (and a dog that deserves an Oscar nomination), it’s the same shit, different day.

What I didn’t: The problem with most sequels is that for relatively gimmicky or unique movies, it’s hard to live up to the original. And the way Paranormal Activity 2 stays so close in tone to the original tends to be more of an obstacle than anything else. Watching this movie, I got a strong been-there-done-that feeling to it. There are some better and bigger special effects (which is to be expected since the budget is way beyond the $15,000 for the first film), but they were all misplaced in a rather mundane and often ridiculous plot.

I will give the film points for trying to tie itself into the first film, but it changes some things that were established in the original and forces the story together. Where the first film was a slow, suspenseful build to a great unknown, Paranormal Activity 2 just seemed to be going through all the same motions.

Another thing that worked in the first film was, even though you knew this was not a true story, the presence of unknown actors helped suspend your disbelief. This film stars Sprague Grayden, whom we’ve seen as the President’s daughter on 24 and as Donna on Sons of Anarchy. So when I see her, my mind immediately thinks “actor!” Add to the fact that the man who plays her husband is acting on the level of Heather in The Blair Witch Project, and all the authenticity drains from the film.

It’s not a horrible movie. It’s just not worthy of huge theatrical release. Things would be so much more appropriate were Paranormal Activity 2 a direct-to-DVD sequel.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who want exactly the same thing from the first movie done not quite as effectively.

Grade: C

Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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