Annabelle (2014)

AnnabelleReleased: October 3, 2014. Directed by: John R. Leonetti. Starring: Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard. Runtime: 98 min.

Do viewers remember that creepy doll named Annabelle from 2013’s “The Conjuring?” Well, regardless of your enjoyment of her, she’s getting the origins treatment. The film opens with background that dolls can both be children’s toys and conduits for inhuman spirits.

The film, based before the account with Ed and Lorraine Warren’s case files, follows a young couple, Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton). The couple, who are expecting a baby, are one’s average Church-attending folks, and John is training to become a doctor. As a present, John gives Mia a rare, vintage doll to finish her collection. It’s Annabelle – the creepy, rosy-cheeked porcelain doll in a white wedding dress. The next-door neighbours’ daughter, Annabelle Higgins (Tree O’Toole), ran away to join a cult, and one night she returns to slay her parents. In their brutal wake, Higgins and her boyfriend also invade Mia’s house and conjure a malevolent spirit, and use the Annabelle doll as a conduit.

The haunting starts out innocently – rocking chairs and sewing machines have minds of their own. The frequently absent husband John blames it on pregnancy hormones and the anxieties of the brutal attack. When things get worse after moving from Santa Monica to Pasadena, he suggests marriage counseling – even though priest blessings seem to do a better trick. As you can tell, he’s not smart.

Mia isn’t much smarter. At one point, she gets John to throw the doll in the trash early on – but when she finds Annabelle later in one of the boxes after moving, she doesn’t think to throw her back in the trash. What’s more bothersome about these characters is that they don’t pursue anything. In one instance, Mia and John find drawings that suggest a threat to Mia’s baby, which they assume were drawn by kids in the apartment building. They contemplate asking the young children’s parents about it, but never pursue. Also: The two kids are literally the only two tenants other than Mia, John and Evelyn (a great Alfre Woodard), we see in the apartment the entire film.

Unintelligent character decisions aside, the writing isn’t half-bad. It has a lot of demonic material and the tone feels like a mix between “Rosemary’s Baby” – perhaps the character name Mia is a nod to this film’s star, Mia Farrow – and “Insidious.” The expansion of the “Insidious” universe was great. Granted, the expansion of that universe made historical inaccuracies even more prevalent. The only truth about this film is that Annabelle is an inhuman spirit and that she’s a real doll. Otherwise, it’s a fictional but creative story. The inconsistency within the Warrens universe is confusing. In “The Conjuring,” Annabelle Higgins was murdered at seven years of age; in this film, she is a satanic cultist killed in her early twenties. It’s a more malevolent origin, but it suggests a lack of care from filmmakers.

There’s some poignancy in characterization, specifically found in the character of Evelyn. There’s also psychological horror thrown in for good measure. This doesn’t make “Annabelle” a creepy doll horror in the traditional sense. It has more layers, but it doesn’t have doll catch-phrases or the pitter-patter of doll feet in the apartment. The chills “Annabelle” musters are notable in eerie imagery and basement scenes. Before the Pasadena apartment, the film is only sporadically scary. The apartment building adds a creepier vibe.

Director John R. Leonetti brings his own style to the film and emulates James Wan’s style simultaneously. He uses a lot of bizarre zooms, even in conversations. The zooms exaggerate certain physical features like a comic strip might. The zooms are indicative of both his style and experience as a cinematographer. He rouses unease with these shots, but most are empty images of her doing absolutely nothing. The heightened unsettling score is designed to offer a sense of depth that isn’t there.

Score: 67/100

Top 20 Films of 2013

This list is a lot late, but I still wanted to see a few more films before making my list. I still have a lot to go, but I’m pleased with the current Top 20 I have at the moment. I might do an article later in the year with an unofficial updated list, just to show how what films might have made the cut if I’d seen them before making the list. Without further ado, here’s my Top 20… I was going to have the whole list displayed in pictures, but the formatting was off for the first half so only the Top 10 are displayed with pictures.

20. Pain & Gain
19. The Kings of Summer
18. Spring Breakers
17. Dallas Buyers Club
16. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
15. The Place Beyond the Pines
14. Captain Phillips
13. Evil Dead
12. The Conjuring
11. The World’s End

7. Mud

7. Mud

4. Her

4. Her

 

Honourable mentions: Monsters University, Fast & Furious 6, 42, Saving Mr. Banks and The Great Gatsby


 

Now this is my bottom 5 of 2013…

The Lords of Salem

The fifth worst film of 2013: The Lords of Salem

The fourth worst film: The Hangover Part III

The fourth worst film: The Hangover Part III

Third worst: Movie 43

Third worst: Movie 43

Second worst: Grown Ups 2

Second worst: Grown Ups 2

The worst film of 2013 is... Scary Movie 5

The worst film of 2013 is… Scary Movie 5


 

Any thoughts on my thoughts? Sound off in the comments if you still want to do a bit of reminiscing of what 2013 had to offer! 🙂

 

The Conjuring (2013)

The_Conjuring_423.jpgReleased: July 19, 2013. Directed by: James Wan. Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor. Runtime: 112 min.

James Wan’s The Conjuring has something too often missing from modern horror films: real scares. I think this film is scary as hell. This film is enough to make me paranoid before bed, but not able to lose that much sleep. If I had seen this in theatres, it may have been a different story if I’d seen this in theatres because of the creepy score and great sound design, and couple that with surround sound, it might make viewers very paranoid at points. This film does start to creep me out just thinking about it. And how effective is that?

The true story follows the Perron family, an ordinary family haunted by a hateful spirit in early 1970s Rhode Island. For part of the film’s first act, focus is shifted between the Perron family and demonologists (the only two recognized by the Catholic Church) Ed and Lorraine Warren (portayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) until the Warren’s go to help the family.

Lorraine is given an extra layer by something that happened to her in a previous case. Her husband is more protective of her because of that, and it gives them a great chemistry. This also gives the two characters a nice layer of vulnerability. The two actors are great, so they’d have a great chemistry regardless. To find both good characterization and memorable performances already seems like a rarity in today’s modern horror market. I think the family gets some pretty good characterization, too, and they’re performed well by Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor and Joey King. The family dynamic’s explored realistically. I like the idea that, when one is younger, their imaginations make them more vulnerable.

What makes the movie more interesting is a sub-plot on another one of Warren’s cases, where an inhuman spirit inhabits a truly eerie Annabelle doll. It’s what helps introduce the Warren’s into the film. I think their lectures are fascinating, and they add on to the mythology of demonology and paranormal activity; other scenes add to the mythology, as well.

The film takes the old-school horror route with old-fashioned scares and a great foreshadowing of what’s to come; like clocks stopping at a certain time each night, pets being scared of the house, and bruises on bodies. The creepy score is used well for foreshadowing, as well. The 1970s styled costume design is great, especially for Farmiga. I think it’s interesting to see how they plan to catch demonic activity before advanced technology. The scares are simplistic but endlessly effective and memorable, and the imagery and crazy spooks stick with you. A lot of this is edge-of-your-seat, sweat-on-your-palms scary. I think something that is impressive is that the film doesn’t lose its footing when the entity’s revealed, it gets even better.

James Wan is a master at creating a haunting film like this. He understands the atmosphere and creates it realistically. The always switching camera angles and points of view keep things interesting and refreshing. The cinematography is just great, and the editing just as awesome. Something that makes this film a bit more ominous is that it’s based on true events. To think that this can happen to you is really scary. Some scares are foreshadowed, and sometimes the simplest of developments (foggy breath, shadows following each family member) prove to be some of the most chilling.

This is the best horror film of 2013, just beating out Evil Dead. It all leads up to one phenomenal finale, and what’s more memorable is how the finale has a lot going on, spanning different settings, but manages to have great focus. This also has one hell of a memorable exorcism scene.

Score92/100

August 2-4 Box Office Predictions

The Smurfs 2“The Smurfs 2” is being released two days early to beat the rush. Now, that worked wonders for “Despicable Me 2,” but didn’t do anything for “Turbo.” After families have emptied their pockets out on legitimately good animated movies like “Monsters University” and “DM2,” their budgets for movies are running on empty (as shown by the soft first weekend for “Turbo”). (That’s okay by me — because this and the summer’s last animated movie, “Planes,” don’t peak my interest.) Movies similar to “The Smurfs 2” open to an average $25.96 million. 2011’s “The Smurfs” opened to $35.6 million. Two years between the original and the first sequel isn’t so bad. Families might have grown a bit wiser in that time – though. For the three-day weekend, I’ll predict this at $26.5 million; and for the five-day frame, I’ll predict it at $39.34 million.

2 Guns

“2 Guns” is the other major release this weekend. It’s an action comedy starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, so it already has an appeal with the cast. The last major buddy comedy, “The Heat,” was aimed at women; so now it’s time to show that men still like their action comedies. This still has an appeal to women, as well, because buddy comedies usually do well. “The Heat” had an $39.115 million debut, so this actioner should open roughly in the same neighbourhood, maybe a bit lower since this film’s marketing campaign wasn’t as aggressive as the campaign of “The Heat.” And since “The Wolverine” will have a good holdover, my prediction is $33.8 million.

Title: Prediction
1. “2 Guns”: $33.8 million
2. “The Wolverine”: $27.15 million
3. “The Smurfs 2”: $26.5 million (Five-day: $39.34 million)
4. “The Conjuring”: $12.85 million
5. “Despicable Me 2“: $10.1 million
6. “Turbo”: $8.56 million
7. “Grown Ups 2“: $6.96 million
8. “Red 2”: $5.26 million
9. “The Heat“: $4.844 million
10. “Pacific Rim“: $4.035 million

Box Office Results July 26-28. (I can’t think of a clever title.)

The Wolverine“The Wolverine” did good business this weekend, but not nearly as great as everyone thought it would be. While it was tracking for a $70 million opening, it was only able to nab a $53.114 million opening. This opening should be attributed to the fact that the disappointing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” disappointed many, so it kept some people away, and audiences are probably just fatigued of this superhero craze and all the explosions. (That makes me question how well “Kick-Ass 2” might do?) Since “Wolverine” did receive an ‘A-‘ Cinemascore, that should say it’ll have good legs. More good news: It’s already earned back its $120-million budget with its $139.2M worldwide tally.

As for the holdovers, “The Conjuring” continues to scare everyone as it had a drop of -46.9% to $22.2 million. That is a great hold for a horror film, where they traditionally face drops over 50%. (“The Purge” faced a drop of 76%!) “Turbo” also held well, dropping 35.5% to $13.74 million. Its box office performance will be thrown off pace when “The Smurfs 2” gets released on Wednesday, and it will be killed by the competition of “Planes”, come August 9th. It’s a very competitive market for animated movies, as “Despicable Me 2” is still going strong with a weekend gross of $16.4 million. “Grown Ups 2” was also in the Top 5 this weekend with $11.6 million, and it’s the 14th Adam Sandler movie to gross over $100 million. That isn’t exactly music to my ears, since I have such a low opinion of “GU2.”

“Fruitvale Station” found its way into the Top 10 with $4.59 million this weekend. “The Way, Way Back” earned $3.44 million and Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” made $612, 064 at just six theatres, marking a career best Per Theatre Average for Woody Allen, and the best PTA of the year so far. Finally, “The To-Do List” grossed a miniature $1.58 million at 591 theatres, which is surprising considering I’ve basically seen the trailer before every comedy I’ve seen for the past month.

What did you all see this weekend? I didn’t get out to the theatre (well, I did last Thursday to see “White House Down”) this weekend, but I’m planning to see “The Way, Way Back” and “Much Ado About Nothing” this week. Maybe “2 Guns” on the weekend. I won’t be seeing “The Smurfs 2.” I just couldn’t take it. I’ll see what happens. I’m thinking of going through a comedian’s full filmography throughout the first half of August and posting the reviews throughout the second half. I’ll make an announcement post soon, but in the meantime, you’ll have to wonder who the comedian is. (Note: Half of their filmography is torture, and half of it I like. So I’m watching half of the comedian’s filmography for your entertainment, and half of it for mine.) Anyway, here’s how much I was off by for each movie in the Top 10:

Title: Result/Prediction/Difference

1. The Wolverine: $53.114M/$69.825M/$16.711M over
2. The Conjuring: $22.208M/$24.258M/$2.05M over
3. Despicable Me 2: $16.424M/$16.2M/$224, 000 under
4. Turbo: $13.74M/$13.5M/$240, 000 under
5. Grown Ups 2: $11.6M/$10M/$1.6M under
6. Red 2: $9.337M/$12.5M/$3.163M over
7. Pacific Rim: $7.703M/$7.8M/$97, 000 over
8. The Heat: $6.915M/$5.6M/$1.315M under
9. R.I.P.D.: $6.071M/5.5M/$571, 000 under
10. Fruitvale Station: $4.59M/$5.2M/$610, 000 over

For the one new release, I was off by $16.711 million.
For the nine holdovers, I was off by $9.87 million.

Remember to get your predictions in at Box Office Ace! You can get your prediction in for 2 Guns here, and your prediction for The Smurfs 2 here.

Remember to

Box Office Predictions: July 26-28

The Wolverine“The Wolverine” has the benefit of opening on a weekend where there isn’t any other blockbuster. Of course, there are the holdovers, but they don’t pose much direct competition.

The five previous X-Men films open to a weighted average of $76.58 million. It will earn less than that number, but not by a wide margin. There are a few bumps in the road this film must overcome.

“X-Men: First Class” showed audiences the X-Men universe can still impress. It was also the lowest-grossing film in the franchise at $146.4 domestically, mostly because of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, which faced generally negative reactions. I liked some of it, but the general memory of it leaves a bland taste in my mouth. That film might directly affect this film’s gross, as audience members hate to be disappointed twice. People will come out to see it, but not nearly as many as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, because, like I said, some people won’t take the risk. So good word-of-mouth will really help this movie out. I’m going to predict this at $69.8 million. 

I’m thinking “The To Do List” performs similar to “Adventureland” at about $4.9 million for its opening, and “The Way, Way Back” has earned $4.6 million domestically so far, so I think it’ll do $4.4 million this weekend.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. “The Wolverine”: $69, 825, 000
2. “The Conjuring”: $24, 258, 000
3. “Despicable Me 2“: $16, 200, 000
4. “Turbo”: $13, 500, 000
5. “Red 2”: $12, 500, 000
6. “Grown Ups 2“: $10, 000, 000
7. “Pacific Rim“: $7, 800, 000
8. “The Heat“: $5, 600, 000
9. “R.I.P.D.”: $5, 500, 000
10. “Fruitvale Station”: $5, 200, 000

Remember to get your predictions in over at Box Office Ace, it’s lots of fun!

“The Conjuring” scares a big audience, Snails and Retired Spies do okay, “R.I.P.D.” bombs hard

New releases from the weekend that are still on my watchlist: The ConjuringR.I.P.D.Red 2Turbo. So, all of them!

I’ve realized that I haven’t been a good box office analyst. I’ve been posting my predictions, but neglecting to report the results. This weekend, I’ll change that. At the beginning of 2013, it was looking like this year wouldn’t even match up to 2012 – but it’s catching up at a rapid rate. Through June, 2013 was 2.1% behind 2012. As of the end of this weekend, it is behind 1.1%. That is impressive considering this weekend was 19% behind last year, as “The Dark Knight Rises” single-handedly grossed $160.8 million. It’s looking like 2013 could match 2012’s number with some big blockbusters still to come: “The Wolverine”, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” this fall, to name a few. Anyway, let’s get to this weekend.

“Turbo” opened to $21.3 million and has earned $31 million through its first five days. That’s the worst opening for a DreamWorks Animation since 2006’s “Wallace and Gromit”, and it’s even less than last year’s “Rise of the Guardians“. It could have legs because of its rewarded ‘A’ Cinemascore, but family audiences chose those yellow minions again (“DM2” earned $24.9 million this weekend) over snail racing. DreamWorks can only hope that snail racing is big overseas. I guess at least this poor outing says “The Smurfs 2” might not do so grandly, as family audiences have only so much money to spend in a month. (But since it opens at the very beginning of August, it might not be affected.)

“The Conjuring” was the big winner this weekend with a huge $41.8 million opening, so take that “The Purge“! It is now the second-largest opening weekend for an R-rated horror movie behind “Paranormal Activity 2”. That’s great for it because it looks really scary and I want to see it. It had a great marketing campaign, it looked terrifying, and people turned out to see it. It also came at a time where there were no horror movies on the market (well besides “The Purge” which is now only in 156 theatres). It will have great box office legs, because it was rewarded an ‘A-‘ Cinemascore, which, for the horror genre, is super rare.

“Red 2” had a soft opening with $18 million. The first movie grossed $21.7 million in its opening, so it seems that audiences thought it looked too similar to its predecessor, a problem “The Expendables 2” faced. I was optimistic with my prediction of $25 million because I thought that since it had really high DVD sales and the first had great legs, “Red 2” would do better business. I was wrong by $7 million. I didn’t factor in that the older audiences that this is aimed at is perfectly content to either wait for the DVD or go during the week when the crowds aren’t as big. Dang it! (By the way, I’ll probably be posting my review of “Red” soon.)

The only movie I was really close with was “R.I.P.D.”, which is standing at 11% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m seeing it tomorrow, because I like to see everything, but audiences just were not interested in this “Men in Black” rip-off as it only debuted to $12.69 million. (I predicted $12.8M, woo-hoo!) And its budget was $130 million or so. Talk about one of the biggest bombs in recent memory! “Red 2” was its direct competition and that one came out on top. I think this movie looks fun, but audiences just didn’t bite. I’m not surprised one bit.

Here’s how the Top 10 performed! And if you missed any of my reviews, just click on the link to read it.

Title: Result/Prediction/Difference (Over/Under)
1. “The Conjuring”: $41.855M/$37.5M/$4.355M under
2. “Despicable Me 2: $24.906M/$22.473M/$2.433M under
3. “Turbo”: $21.312M/$28.8M/$7.488M over
4. “Grown Ups 2”: $19.872M/$19.5M/$372, 000 under
5. “Red 2”: $18.048M/$25M/$6.952M over
6. “Pacific Rim: $16.002M/$19.825M/$3.823 over
7. “R.I.P.D.”: $12.691M/$12.8M/$109, 000 over
8. “The Heat: $9.303M/$9.025M/$278, 000 under
9. “World War Z: $5.191M/NA/NA
10. “Monsters University: $5.121M/$6M/$879, 000 over

For the four new releases, I was off by a grand total of: $18, 904, 000

For the five holdovers I predicted in the top 10, I was off by a grand total of: $7, 785, 000

Did any of you go to the theatre this weekend? I saw “Grown Ups 2” on Saturday, don’t ask me why. Expect the review tomorrow.