The Conjuring (2013) PICK
Monsters University (2013) PICK
Pacific Rim (2013) PASS
The Way, Way Back (2013) PICK
Some of the better films of summer 2013 are among the latest home-video releases, including two (possibly three) timed for Halloween.
Set in 1971,The Conjuring is a horror movie throwback to the likes of The Exorcist, though it’s more restrained and less shocking. Blending a strongly Catholic milieu — going beyond crucifixes and holy water and embracing trust in God, the efficacy of baptism and the sanctity of family — with psychic phenomena and other complications, it’s as pro-Catholic as The Rite and a better movie to boot, though a bit more theologically confused as well.
For more family-friendly Halloween fare, check out Monsters University, yet another Pixar sequel, or, in this case, prequel. Although underwhelming by Pixar standards, it’s still a charming family flick, with one solid, subversive idea that’s vintage Pixar: You can’t necessarily achieve anything you put your mind to, no matter how badly you want it.
Then there’s Pacific Rim, from visionary monster-meister Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth). Some viewers loved the movie’s campy story and gee-whiz special effects pitting human beings in giant robot suits against extradimensional Godzilla-like alien invaders. Pacific Rim isn’t really a problematic movie … just, to me, a kind of boring one.
Finally, for viewers looking for a movie about actual human beings, consider The Way, Way Back, a shaggy coming-of-age story about the fallout of divorce and absentee fatherhood in the life of a young boy.
The story centers on a painfully introverted young boy named Duncan with major father-figure problems. His own dad is AWOL with another woman, and his mother is cohabiting with an abusive jerk (Steve Carell, playing against type). Somehow, he scores a summer job at a water park, where a terminally irresponsible manager (Sam Rockwell) proves to be the least inadequate father figure in his life.
Although the content is sometimes abrasive, there’s something deeply humane about The Way, Way Back’s empathy for nearly all these very broken characters, who just might help each other find some measure of healing.
Caveat Spectator: The Conjuring: Much intense suspense, menace and peril, paranormal and otherwise; limited cursing and profanity. Mature viewing. Monsters University: Some intense action sequences. Might be a bit much for sensitive youngsters. The Way, Way Back: Much crude language and sexually themed dialogue; sexual situations, including a nonmarital relationship; frequent heavy drinking and drug references; moderate profanity.