With “Shazam!” – the superhero answer to “Big,” starring Zachary Levi – hitting theaters April 5 and “Aquaman” available for rental March 26, it’s a good time to look back at the DC Extended Universe as it stands so far. While I admit the DCEU can’t hold a candle to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which again owns the superhero calendar with three 2019 films, or even the in-flux X-Men Universe, I’m probably in the role of DCEU apologist in most conversations about superhero movies.
Aquaman” (2018) is an artistic feast, with its underwater city of Atlantis, its bevy of sea creatures and the way the ocean peoples’ hair flows in the water. This latest DC Extended Universe film takes full advantage of the possibilities of modern special effects. Jason Momoa is a pretty good special effect, too, as the title character. As we know from “Justice League,” he isn’t like the cartoon version, but he boasts brawn and charm and makes all the punchlines about Aquaman instantly outdated.
What makes “The Conjuring 2” one of the year’s best horror movies is that it’s not just a horror movie. When it is, it’s really scary. Writer-director James Wan – the modern maestro who launched this franchise in 2013 – is well-established for capturing the 1970s-style horror aesthetic, and he opens “Conjuring 2” with a tense scene of Lorraine Warren (“Bates Motel’s” Vera Farmiga) flow-walking as a man murders his family in the tradition of “In Cold Blood.” But once we’re suitably on edge, Wan makes this into a movie about love and family, while also peppering in a sense of mystery.
I kept the lessons of Hollywood horror movies in mind as I hunted for my new apartment. I like living in a somewhat older place, because those have more character, but I don’t want so much character that doors slam of their own volition, inhuman groans come from the walls after dark, or blood drips from the faucets. As such, I picked a nice 1971-built unit where the fridge doors are backwards, the air conditioner is a little loud and the bathtub faucet drips. But I can sleep soundly, knowing it’s not haunted.
“Insidious,” which has scared up the best business of any horror movie this year, is made by people who still love the genre. Although it comes from folks who also brought us the “Paranormal Activity” and “Saw” films, this isn’t a cynical money grab, but rather the first strong horror flick of 2011.