I was about halfway through my screening of The Conjuring when I noticed that I was having a most unusual reaction to director James Wan's haunted-house opus: For the life of me, I couldn't stop smiling.
Playing husband and wife in the marital action comedy Date Night, Steve Carell and Tina Fey partner each other with such skillful ease, and radiate such genuine affection for one another, that my issues with the film have come to feel insignificant, and even a little petty. I had a not-bad time at director Shawn Levy's latest. But reflecting on the experience, I've found it awfully difficult to wipe the grin from my face; surrounded by an exceptional cast of second bananas, Carell and Fey are so genial and inventive together that it's easy to ignore the dully synthetic, determinedly formulaic Hollywood product they're appearing in.
Beginning with 2001's Planet of the Apes remake, Tim Burton has cast domestic partner Helena Bonham Carter in all six of his most recent feature films, and he's never made better use of her beguiling, somewhat perverse charisma than in his new take on Alice in Wonderland.
John Cusack, at his best, has made a career out of playing two disarmingly similar character types: those who feel like losers, but are actually cooler than anyone else in the room (see his roles in The Sure Thing, Say Anything..., and Grosse Pointe Blank), and those who think they're cooler than anyone else in the room, but are actually losers (The Grifters, Bullets Over Broadway, and Being John Malkovich).
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