Paranormal Activity 2

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Film (with rating): Paranormal Activity 2 (R)

 

Studio: Paramount

 

Summary: After experiencing unusual activities around the
home, a family with a newborn baby sets up security cameras around their house
and discovers that things are much more sinister than they could have imagined.

 

Review: It’s rare that a sequel is as good as its
predecessor. Here, that’s the case. I loved “Paranormal Activity.”
And “Paranormal Activity 2″ does not disappoint. Set up as a prequel,
really, “2″ once again brings back Katie (Katie Featherston)  and Micah (Micah Sloat), who spend a lot
of time at the house of Katie’s sister Kristi (Sprague Grayden). Kristi and her
husband Daniel (Brian Boland) just had a baby, and life looks great in this
slice of Southern California suburban heaven.  But soon strange things start to happen, and so Daniel
installs a bunch of cameras throughout his house to capture everything.
“2″ is still shot in that “Blair Witch” style–wide camera
angles, no fancy cinematography. And all of this just adds to the movie’s charm
and creepiness factor.

The movie is a bit slow to ramp up, and this, in some
opinions, adds to the suspense. I wanted to speed things up a bit, especially
since the ending seemed rushed. But rushed or not, that is one great ending. The
tie-in between this installment and the first is brilliant, and actually made
me want to watch the first immediately after finishing “2.” The
acting by all involved was extremely believable, and I found myself sometimes
forgetting I really wasn’t watching someone’s personal home-surveillance video.

Although I’m a fan of gore-filled horror movies, I found the lack of blood
actually added to the terror factor of “2.” The simplicity of the
entire movie was brilliant, and so disturbing. It made the events feel real. So
keep celebrating this month of ghosts and goblins by turning out the lights,
grabbing a blanket and scaring yourself with “Paranormal Activity 2.”
You will never look at a crib mobile the same way again.

 

Extra highlight: Watch “Paranormal Activity.”

 

What to serve for dinner: For today’s Meatless Monday
entre, serve up a Southern California BBQ staple: burgers (www.vegnews.com).

 

1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP) granules

1 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 white onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 cup vital wheat gluten

2 tablespoons panko-style breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder

1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried dill

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 cup diced scallions

 

In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together TVP granules and
broth, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 5 to 6 minutes. In a
flat-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add mushrooms, onion,
and garlic and saut for 5 to 6 minutes. In a food processor, combine TVP,
sauted mushroom mixture, vital wheat gluten, breadcrumbs, parsley, onion
powder, garlic powder, dill weed, salt, chipotle powder, cumin, pepper,
nutritional yeast, tamari, and tomato paste. Process until well combined. If
mixture is crumbly, add a tablespoon vegetable broth or water until mixture has
a thicker consistency. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and mix in scallions.
Form into 6 to 8 patties. Refrigerate for one hour before cooking. On an oiled
grill over medium-low heat, cook patties for about 10 minutes per side.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What was the scariest scene
for you? Was it better than its predecessor? What do you think “Paranormal
Activity 4″ will be about? Will it work? Will you see it? It opens this Friday.
Who was your favorite character? What do you fear most? What would you do if
you thought your house was targeted by a demon? What did you think about the
ending? Compare this to my last entry: “Cabin in the Woods.” Are
psychological horror movies scarier than those that are in-your-face creepy?
What happened to the dog?

Cabin in the Woods


Film (with rating): Cabin in the Woods (R)

 

Studio: Lionsgate

 

Summary: Five friends embark on a road trip to a remote
cabin in the woods, but they get more than they bargained for.

 

Review: Happy Horror Month, everyone! Better known as
October, this month is all about frights. So why not kick things off with a
monster movie like “Cabin in the Woods?” I admit, at first, I did not
like this movie. I went in blind, not really sure what it was about. Horror, a
spooky cabin, lots of monsters. Okay, I’m game. But the opening scene,
featuring Bradley Whitford as a tie-wearing desk jockey, threw me for a loop.
Throughout the film, I found myself falling out of the horror mindset and
instead pondering the deeper meaning of what was on the screen–or even laughing
at what I saw.

 

But then it hit me. This is not a horror movie. It’s not
really a parody of horror, either. Think “Scream,” but deeper. I
watched “Cabin” thinking it was one of those amazingly scary monster
movies with a huge twist at the end. Not so much. “Cabin” is almost a
horror comedy, expertly written by horror professionals Joss Whedon and Drew
Goddard. The duo not so much poke fun of the genre as they do draw attention to
the clichs, the way today’s horror films are more like gore films instead of true
spine-tingling terrors. It also looks at why society likes horror in the first
place. It praises the films of horror market, but it also picks them apart and
snickers at them.

 

I’m not going to go so far as to say “Cabin” is
some morality-preaching vehicle. It’s simply a new take on a classic genre.
You’ll enjoy the film more if you know little of it to begin with. But just
take this to the couch with you: It’s not a traditional scary movie, so don’t
make the mistake I did and expect that. Go in with an open mind, and be
prepared to laugh, and be grossed out. Don’t take it all literally.

 

And never look at unicorns in the same way again.

 

Extra highlight: “The Secret Secret Stash”

 

What to serve for dinner: Pretend you’re a college kid like
one of the main characters and just order pizza.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What did you think about the
movie? Did it work? Were you disappointed? Who was your favorite character?
Favorite death scene? Did you buy the ending? Were you surprised by the
“boss?” Why do you think our society likes scary movies? What if
organizations like the one in the movie really existed? Which monster would you
have rather battled? Anyone else feel violated by the unicorn? Which monster
creeped you out the most? What’s your favorite scary movie? And for bonus
points…what scary movie did that line come from?

The Rite

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Film (with rating): The Rite (PG-13)

 

Studio: New Line Cinema

 

Summary: Inspired by true events. Michael, a seminary
student (Colin O’Donoghue), suffers a lack of faith and attempts to leave the
seminary, but instead agrees to study exorcisms in Rome. When he’s paired up
with an unorthodox but effective priest (Anthony Hopkins), Michael realizes his
doubting ways may cause him trouble when battling the devil.

 

Review: This is not “The Exorcist.” Even the film’s
characters acknowledge that with some “pea soup” quips. But that’s not to say
“The Rite” isn’t a decent film about demonic possession. Not great, but decent.
Sure, there are some weak spots and the acting is not exactly Oscar-worthy
(O’Donoghue could have used a few more facial expressions, and Hopkins
sometimes needed a few less).

But overall, the film, helmed by Mikael Hafstrom
and based on Matt Baglio’s non-fiction book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern
Exorcist,” contains some decent scares, good visual effects, food for thought
and a wonderful opening sequence that is creepy as anything I’ve seen lately.
Hopkins channeled his inner Hannibal for some of the scarier scenes, and seeing
him deal with the devil and modern technology (even priests get interrupted by
their ever-present cellphones) helped make the film succeed.

Unfortunately,
there were some holes in the plot (exactly how do people get possessed around
here anyway? Is it like the flu and anyone in the area of a sneeze can catch
it?) and the use of almost comical “demons” (the donkey!) didn’t do the movie
any favors, either. I wish Hafstrom would have cut loose a bit and really gone
in for some chilling scares, as seen in “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”

All in
all, it’s a decent flick that does encourage some thought instead of
spoon-feeding the viewer a bunch of recycled “Exorcist” fare. It’s not
completely unique, but not totally been-there-seen-that either.

 

Extra highlight: Alternate ending

 

What to serve for dinner: Since young Michael visits Rome,
cook up Italian food. Try pasta primavera (foodnetwork.com).

 

* 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips

    *
2 medium zucchini or 1 large zucchini, cut into thin strips

    *
2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips

    *
1 onion, thinly sliced

    *
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips

    *
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

    *
1/4 cup olive oil

    *
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    *
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence

    *
1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)

    *
15 cherry tomatoes, halved

    *
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. On a large heavy baking
sheet, toss all of the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs
to coat. Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to another heavy large baking
sheet and arrange evenly over the baking sheets. Bake until the carrots are
tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 10 minutes,
about 20 minutes total.

 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted
water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about eight minutes.
Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

 

Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl
to combine. Toss with the cherry tomatoes and enough reserved cooking liquid to
moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the
Parmesan and serve immediately.

 

What to talk about over dinner: What’s your favorite demonic
possession movie? The worst one ever made? Do you believe in possession? Why or
why not? How could this film have been better? What’s your favorite Anthony
Hopkins movie? Did you see any Hannibal in “The Rite?” Do you think frogs are
creepy now? How about those donkeys?