Finally, summer brings up a couple of movies which remember that summer movies should be fun and inventive. T4 and Angels and Demons felt like everyone was just going through the motions, but UP and Drag Me To Hell feel like the filmmakers and casts are having as much fun as the audience.
I'm not quite as willing as Dr. X to proclaim UP an instant classic. Wasn't Wall-E, which works quite well as a reasonably sophisticated sci-fi film, more groundbreaking? But this doesn't mean UP is not one of the best movies you'll see this year. For me, this hearkens back to more old-fashioned family adventure fare. Going in, I didn't know too much beyond the basic facts (an old man with a flying house and an uninvited kid on board). Therefore, much of the film was a consistent surprise. Ed Asner's Carl Frederickson deserves to become a famous character, but I was less pleased by his child companion Russell (who's pretty much your standard annoying kid). The film's bid-for-greatness is the already-much-discussed sequence near the beginning which takes us, in the span of about five minutes and with no dialogue, from Carl's wedding to his wife's death. Now that's pure visual storytelling, kids! Watch and learn.
Raimi's return to horror with Drag Me To Hell seems designed as a treat for his old-school 80's fans (look at that Universal logo!) and a much-needed reminder that horror films don't have to suck (which some of us had forgotten given the recent wave of torture-porn, Americanized remakes of J-Horror, and endless franchise "reboots" of films that weren't very good to begin with). Yeah, yeah, it's PG-13, but it's the...gooiest and most disgusting PG-13 you've seen, full of the kind of purely-bonkers moments the Evil Dead (II and III) fans want to see. Does it rely a little too much on cheap scares and loud noises? Yep. But just try not to grin like a chimp while watching Raimi gleefully dismantle audience expectations (be warned, animal lovers!) and deliver us with an abrupt ending that leaves the multiplex-trained horror boneheads whining on their way out the door--even though it's the only possible ending that's not a complete cheat. Don't fuck with a lamia!