Ignorance is Bliss."
Tomas Gray said that, although it turns out the phrase is taken out of context and is actually one of the most misunderstood quotes in the English language.
The extended version, "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise," is apparently Gray's commentary on the joys being young and carefree, not uniformed or apathetic. In Hollywood however, an ignorant audience can be a blessing. Despite all the test screenings and marketing budgets, the studios sometimes have so little faith in their films they won't let any critics take an early look. It's the cinematic equivalent to pleading the fifth and we see it time and time again: no pre-screenings usually equals a crappy movie.
The exception that proves the rule is usually with horror films. Cheaper to make, horror films also enjoy the comfort of a built-in fan base so they can operate under different rules. A film like Insidious: Chapter 2 drops this Friday at the Whistler Village 8 with no press screenings because the main point of horror movies is to scare and surprise the audience. That's tough to do when every Dick, Feet and Ebert is breaking your film down scene-for-scene on the Internet. For horror, the less you know the scarier it is. (Here's where the art of cutting a proper trailer comes in, but we'll save that for a rainy day).
Here's what we do know. Insidious 2 stars the same family as the first one (same actors even!), as they try to claw back to some sort of normal life after battling through the chaos of a possessed son who can astral travel to downtown Demonville and bring back all kinds of nastiness. Apparently, it doesn't get any easier the second time around.
It probably doesn't get any better either. The astral travel bit wasn't all that deftly handled in the first Insidious but here's hoping... The good news is director James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) is a proven master of edge-of-the-seat tension who understands the conventions of the genre and how to craft really drawn out scenes of nail-biting horrorificness. Insidious 2 will surely have redeeming qualities regardless of how well (or shitty) the plot fits together.
On the other side of the coin, there were no pre-screenings for The Family either. This one is a witness-relocation comedy starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer. De Niro is a mob-guy-turned-rat so the whole family (two kids) is relocated to Paris to stay out of trouble and take a shot at a new life. Tommy Lee Jones plays the federal agent keeping a not-so-close eye on things.
If that sounds like a worn premise populated with typecast actors in career decline that's because it is. But witness relocation is a tested and true Hollywood sub-genre (Lethal Weapon 2, Sister Act, Witness, The Client). The Family sees French writer/director Luc Besson (The Big Blue, The 5th Element) working on home soil with solid actors, but the soundtrack in the trailer screams "Renter!" to me (so does the rest of it).
The download of the week is Chasing Ice. It's understandable that a person would want to remain ignorant to the obscene levels of greed, corruption and irresponsibility plaguing humanity these days, but there is no excuse for keeping our heads in the sand about the speed and manner in which we are destroying the natural world. Chasing Ice follows National Geographic photographer James Balog on a multi-year timelapse mission to capture the world's changing glaciers and shrinking mountains of ice. Transcendent photography and top-notch storytelling combine in what is probably the best documentary of the year.
Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power.
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