Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller prove they know their onions in this flavory film based on the 1978 children's book of the same name by Judi and Ron Barrett. In it we learn that the town of Chewandswallow was originally known as the island of Swallow Falls (placed on the map just beneath the letter "A" in the "Atlantic Ocean"). Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) voices Flint Lockwood, the town's brilliant, but accident-prone inventor, who strives to invent something that will not only make him famous, but also earn him his father's pride and respect above all things. In an underground lair that will hail to fans of Dexter's Laboratory, he invents a machine dubbed the "Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator" or the FLDSMDFR, for short, to spare his hometown from a neverending supply of sardines. After a serious mishap that destroys Sardine Land, the town's newest attraction, Flint meets Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), an intern reporter bent on suppressing her intellect for the sake of her career. However, the pair soon discover that Flint's contraption is no failure when food begins to fall from the sky in a hail of hamburgers. Flint goes from unheeded nerd to local celebrity and his relationship with Sam begins to ripen, but when it becomes apparent that something awry is cooking (in the shape of giant hotdogs) it's up to Flint to get himself out of the soup and put a stop to a spaghetti storm of moutwatering proportions.
Despite being a far-flung adaptation of the children's book, the hilarious antics and parodies of other disaster films make the film worthy of a five-star appraisal. The assault on the world's biggest landmarks by a contingent of donuts and other sweets pay homage to The Day After Tomorrow, while a search-and-seek by the Food Replicator is remiscent of War of the Worlds. Secondary charaters such as Manny (Benjamin Bratt), the mult-certified cameraman and Earl (Mr. T), the town policeman with a superman complex, add fulfillment to a cast of comedy's biggest clowns, including Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live) and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother). Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is a film that family's will enjoy, even if it's not their cup of tea.
Put a camera in a bedroom for three-quarters of a homemade film and there's plenty of "extra-curricular activity" to keep viewers on edge. However, in the case of this low-budget mokumentary by Israeli-born newcomer, Oren Peli, the only activity we're supposed to see - and believe for that matter - is the paranormal sort. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloater, a twenty-somethin couple from San Diego, conduct an investigation into the strange goings-on in their suburban style home. Micah is the film's trademark skeptic enjoying the humor of playing ghost-hunter, while Katie is the ever-cautious female lead, who had some experience with the supernatural when her child-hood home mysteriously burned down. Years later, she is hounded by a malevolent spector, which prompts Micah to gain evidence of the haunting on tape. The couple go so far as to consult a dubious psychic, but it is the introduction of a ouija board that launches the film towards a terrifying, sinister peak.
Paranormal Activity thrives on the power of suggestion. Footfalls in the dark, demonic voices on audio, and the occasional spontaeous door-slamming mimic the usual predecessors to the heart-stopping mainstream horror of a Hollywood blockbuster. On the other hand, the scenes that pit viewers with the tangible side of terror succeed only in stealing from the film's raw presentation of a genuine haunting. As a result, a midnight mad struggle down a hallway is immersed in hopeless cliche and likable to comic relief.
Nevertheless, the chemistry between the characters is decidedly credible, though the lack of interaction with the world outside their home makes them less like the every-day individuals viewers are supposed to relate to. Regardless, Peli casts his lead roles in a rare and praise-worthy style. Many classic films of the haunted-house genre (The Amityville Horror, The Shining, and The Changeling to name a few) feature a male character corrupted by a spirit (or spirits) which eventually drives them to the brink of insanity. Peli, however, goes down the same path as William Friedkin in the 1973 smash hit The Exorcist. Do not be mistaken - Katie Featherston is no Regan MacNeil, but her performance relishes in the tender side of the emotional trauma associated with supernatural encounters. Featherston's expression comes together as the only portion of the film evoking an understanding of the film's events, if not outright belief.