In need of some harmless fluff to entertain the parents on a recent visit, I finally caught up with Whip It, which you two faithful readers have reviewed on your respective blogs long ago. And I can generally agree with your assessments: it's completely formulaic but generally fun and fast-paced and well-acted (and well-directed, by Drew Barrymore). I think my same criticism of Taking Woodstock may hold up here too: would the film have actually been more interesting if it had been primarily about one of its supporting characters? (say Kristen Wiig as the single-mother derby girl or Juliette Lewis as the not-quite-so-cruel-as-she-pretends-to-be aging derby legend Iron Maven?). Sure, Ellen Page is cute and all, but we've seen the novice-rising-to-the-top formula a few too many times. But who am I to complain about sexy chicks smashing each other up on ice? (and I don't believe either of you pointed out the homage to Paul Newman's Slap Shot: that film's Hansen brothers have morphed here into the Manson sisters! Funny shit!).
Oh, I was prepared to be scared silly by Paranormal Activity, the gimmick now playing at a theater near you (because America "demanded" it!). And I suppose it does get a fair amount of mileage out of its "found footage" premise (let's set up a camera near the bed and catch some invisible demon mischief!). At the very least, the film understands something that most horror films seem to have long ago forgotten, which is that waiting to be scared is often far more frightening than the scares themselves. In your average slasher remake, we may not know when the scares will come, but we know what they'll involve (a killer will jump out...or sometimes a cat! oh, the fake scare is always popular). But Paranormal Activity benefits from the fact that we never know what kind of scare is coming (doors closing, knocking on walls, TV's turning of and off). And the slow burn of much of the film does build up to, for my money, two major scares at the end. But when it's over, boy, is it over. There's nothing there to think about at all and no lesson to be learned except that, if you are dating a girl who's perpetually haunted by demons, drop that bitch before it's too late!