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

Box Office Predictions: July 19-21

There are four big releases coming out this weekend, so I’ll try to keep my thoughts on each of the movies brief, so this article doesn’t become too tedious. The movies are “The Conjuring”, “Red 2”, “R.I.P.D.” and “Turbo”.

“The Conjuring” will do superb business this weekend. James Wan’s movies have an average opening of $10.9 million. Supernatural horror movies open at an average $15.26 million, but 2013 horror movies have been outstanding in their opening weekend performances. “Mama” opened to $28.4 million back in January, and “The Purge” opened to $34 million last month. Those movies opened to little to no competition. (“Mama” was up against “Broken City” and “The Last Stand”, two under-performing movies; while “The Purge” was up against the modestly-performing “The Internship”.) This movie opens on a busy weekend, but it is heavily anticipated and it has critics raving. Also, since “The Purge” had such poor word-of-mouth, it plummeted from $16.7 million on the Friday to $10.4 million on the Saturday, a day where movies usually earn more than the Friday. Anyway, horror fanatics haven’t received a horror movie since “The Purge” in June, and they haven’t received a good horror movie since April’s “Evil Dead”. Since it is anticipated, has star power (Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson), and since it looks great, I’m going to go high with my prediction. I also think this will have phenomenal word-of-mouth, so this will go strong all weekend. I’m predicting $37.5 million for its opening.

“Red 2” is the sequel to 2010’s action comedy hit. It brings back the cast and this one looks really fun. I haven’t seen the first movie, so I’ll be watching the first one sometime this week. The first “Red” opened to $21.76 million back in October 2010, against “Jackass 3-D”, that opened to $50.3 million. “Red” has a good following, though, as it has a standing 7.0 IMDb score based on over 140, 000 user ratings. It is also the tenth-best selling DVD of 2011 (sandwiched between “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Despicable Me”). The movie has a great cast including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins and Mary-Louise Parker (who is also starring in “R.I.P.D.”).With this film’s good following, I think this sequel will beat its predecessor in its opening weekend number by a decent-sized margin; so for the three-day weekend, I’m predicting this at $25 million.

“Turbo” is DreamWorks’ latest production, and I think it’ll do well, as family audiences aren’t yet tired of animated movies. They have emptied their pockets on “Monsters University” and those little yellow minions are still dominating the market, so this could very well suffer from competition of those animated movies, and the other new releases. And families just could wait for “The Smurfs 2”. This seems like DreamWorks’ answer to “Cars” and “Ratatouille” in the way that it’s an underdog story. Kids like racing movies, but are they willing to see a racing movie that has a snail going for gold? Of course, Pixar was able to make a rat appealing in “Ratatouille”, but DreamWorks isn’t nearly as respected as Pixar. (But then again, which animated studio is?) And “Epic” had a snail and a slug as supporting characters, but they were there for comic relief, mostly. Anyway, with a decent-looking underdog story and a good voice cast (Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Ken Jeong), this should do decent business on a busy weekend. For the three-day, I’ll predict $28.8 million; and for the five-day (Wed-Sun), I’m predicting $43 million.

Now that I’ve discussed all the ones I think will do well, this is the one I don’t have a lot of faith in. “R.I.P.D.” looks like fun, but it’s the least appealing out of all of the new releases. The 3D action comedy is adapted from a comic book of the same name, but I don’t see it doing well. Audiences haven’t been showing a lot of enthusiasm for it yet, but I think it’ll still attract a small audience somewhere in the low-teen millions. People like Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds (who’s going to have a busy weekend), but I don’t know if this is on many people’s radars. I think it could do decent business, but it’s going to suffer because of all of the competition. And older action fans will probably just see “Red 2” instead. It’ll break $10 million, I think, but I don’t think it’ll go past the $15 million mark. I’m going to underestimate Bridges and Reynolds’ combined popularity and say an awful $12.8 million.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. The Conjuring: $37, 500, 000
2. Turbo: $28, 800, 000 (5-day: $43M)
3. Red 2: $25, 000, 000
4. Despicable Me 2: $22, 473, 000
5. Pacific Rim: $19, 825, 000
6. Grown Ups 2: $19, 500, 000
7. R.I.P.D.: $12, 800, 000
8. The Heat: $9, 025, 000
9. Monsters University: $6, 000, 000
10. The Lone Ranger: $5, 800, 000

The Bling Ring (2013)

The Bling RingRelease Date: June 21, 2013Director: Sofia CoppolaStars: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma WatsonRuntime: 90 min.

“The Bling Ring” completes the trio of 2013 social commentaries on the stupidity of the human race. The first is “Spring Breakers”, Harmony Kormine’s reality check for today’s youth, and the way that their decisions on their spraaaang breaaaak vacation will have consequences. The second is Michael Bay’s true-crime movie, “Pain & Gain” that expressed how far people are willing to go to achieve the American dream. I love both of those movies, because they’re entertaining and well-written. The same can be said about Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring”, even if it is my least favourite of the three.

Inspired by actual events (occuring between 2008 and 2009), a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts in order to rob their homes.

“The Bling Ring” highlights the stupidity of some younger people and their obsession with fame, and their want to experience the celebrity lifestyle. This movie is fascinating. It shows the stupidity of people because the characters who do the robbing fail to wear gloves, so they’re just smothering their fingertips all over the house. Smart thinking, right? They also use all the slang of today’s youth – grimy (meaning dirty), lates (instead of later), and totes (instead of totally) – which isn’t exactly an ode to the intelligence of my generation, but I guess it is how we talk. (I, for one, try my hardest to keep my language formal – even if I am guilty of dropping the occasional ‘Just chillin’.) But that’s just the point of these characters: They’re dumb.

One shows enough remorse, but they’re dumb for stealing merchandise, and not knowing how to keep their mouths shout about it. I guess they’re clever enough to steal merchandise the celebrities wouldn’t notice is missing, for awhile. That also just indicates how off the wall consumer society today is, and how much we own that we don’t actually use. It’s also insane how everything is on the internet now, and it’s surprising how easy one could find a celebrities’ home by just searching for it on Google. The kids aren’t the only stupid ones; as it’s truly hard to believe how many celebrities leave their doors unlocked, and don’t bother to use an alarm when they’re out of town.

Even though most of these characters are stupid, they are intriguing. Rebecca (Katie Chang) is the sociopathic ring leader of the group. Mark (Israel Broussard) is the best written of the group, because he’s one of the only almost appealing characters of the gang of criminals. He’s a trendy guy who knows the difference between Muumuu and Prada. (What the f*ck is a Muumuu?!). He’s only ever found one true best friend. He’s unfortunate enough that the one person is Rebecca, and that is his motivation for going along with the crimes.

The real scene-stealer here is Emma Watson, who is hilarious as Nicki. Her performance is truly impressive, and you cannot hear a trace of a British accent in her prissy, stuck-up, L.A. dialect.  The director, Sofia Coppola, really knows how to get laughs out of the audience. One scene has Watson saying “I wanna rob”, and it immediately cuts to a scene of her saying “I just went along with it” (or something like that). It’s such a simple, but effectively genuine way to get a big laugh out of the audience. It’s also funny Nicki is being interviewed, and has to constantly tell her Mom (Leslie Mann) to shut up because it’s her interview. (Her Mom seems to just love fame as much as her daughter, because included in her home-schooling curriculum is a class called ‘Celebrity Role Models’.)

The casting is truly spot-on, because the primary cast is mostly made up of great, but generally unknown, actors (Katie Chang; Claire Julien; Israel Broussard in his first leading role). The casting is clever because well-known celebrities playing fame-obsessed characters seems far-fetched. Leslie Mann is a well-known actress, but she isn’t part of the group. Your eyes might go to Taissa Farmiga, because she’s a great performer who steals a few scenes, and she is a spitting image of her much older sister, Vera Farmiga. (Was anyone else reminded of “Spring Breakers” when she had that gun in her hands?) Emma Watson is inarguably the best known of the primary gang, but her character is supposed to be played by a celebrity, as some of the character’s lines are delivered like a true celebrity. Plus, she’s only a supporting character and she’s freaking hysterical. (If her a character like hers really did “rule a country one day”, I’d be so done with the human race.) Your eyes will probably keep going to Emma Watson because she’s as great as ever, and her character is well-written. Even though she is stuck up (that’s the point of her), she’s very amusing. She believes in Karma and believes this is a learning experience for her, and she seems destined for celebrity life.

Ms. Sofia Coppola really knows how to handle this screenplay. Her style, the cinematography, the movie’s sense of realism, and the energy makes the movie more appealing than it might be in any other director’s hands. I dig her style, and this is my first experience with the director. Although, I’m not sure how entertaining I’d call one specific scene with Mark trying on lipstick and dancing in front of a camera for a minute or two. If it were Emma Watson doing that instead, I would not be thinking that the young man would grow up to be Buffalo Bill from “The Silence of the Lambs”. (Seriously, you’ll be waiting for him to put on a robe, turn around and say, “I’d so f*ck me.”) This film is a fascinating true-crime tale, and its analysis of obsession with celebrity life and fame is endlessly intriguing. The memorable performances and the film’s energy makes me want to watch it again in the future. It’s well-written, often compelling, and a great adaptation of the article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”. (What the hell are Louboutins?!)

Score80/100

My most anticipated movies of July

Hi everyone, this is my post for the movies I’m most anticipating this month. I’m going to leave out the ones I’m not anticipating (but will be seeing), because who wants to write a paragraph about a movie they’re not particularly passionate about? (I’m talking about you, GROWN UPS 2.) I’ll be writing reviews about those said movies, but that’s for another day – and I love writing reviews. So, that’s good, then. I’ll start with a few thoughts on the movies I can wait for, but I am looking forward to watching.

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Plot: The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.

I like a good bio pic and a good emotional drama, so I’m intrigued by this. It also has critics raving, so I’m hoping it’s good. I thought Michael B. Jordan is great in CHRONICLE, and I like Octavia Spencer in just about anything.

Red 2 (7/19)

Red 2 (7/19)

Plot: Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.

I can mostly wait for this one because I haven’t seen the first. I own it, so I’ll watch that this week or next or something, and then maybe I’ll be a bit more excited about this one. I love a good crime comedy, and the cast intrigues me.

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

Plot: A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.

I don’t know if this will be a box office hit – but it does look very amusing. I love the first and third MIB movies, so I’m pretty intrigued by this. It looks fun, and Jeff Bridges has many great one-liners in the trailer.

The To Do List (J7/26)

The To Do List (7/26)

Plot: Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Clark makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall.

This looks like a predictable comedy, but it does look very funny. I like EASY A a lot, and this seems to have similar awkward humour. I’m curious to see how Aubrey Plaza will do in her first leading lady role. (I’ve seen a few episodes of TV’s PARKS AND RECREATION and it’s just hilarious.) There are some real laugh-out loud moments in the trailer, especially Clark Gregg’s thoughts on taking the back door.

Turbo (7/17)

Turbo (7/17)

Plot: A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.

I like the voice cast and the simple thought of Ken Jeong voicing a little Asian grandma makes me giggle. This looks like DreamWorks Animation’s answer to CARS and FAST & FURIOUS, and maybe even RATATOUILLE (instead of rats and cooking, it’s snails and racing). I think the idea’s just as silly as Stuart Little playing soccer, I mean, this little snail is probably going to get run over. I think I’ll enjoy the movie a lot, regardless.

The Wolverine (7/26)

The Wolverine (7/26)

Plot: Wolverine makes a voyage to modern-day Japan, where he encounters an enemy from his past that will impact on his future.

This looks pretty cool. I’m not huge on superhero movies, but I do enjoy the X-MEN movies. I’ll have to have a marathon soon to pump up for this one a bit more. It looks good, but it could be so much better if Darren Aronofsky really did end up directing it. I guess I’m really just hoping it’s better than X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.

Now these are the ones I’m really excited for. 

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

Plot: When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.

I think this looks awesome. I haven’t seen any GODZILLA movies, but I like a good monster movie. And, this is monsters AND robots. Whoa. It sounds like it could be everything BATTLESHIP and TRANSFORMERS aspired to be. Lots of fun, and well-made. And Del Toro is at the helm! I might have to re-watch CLOVERFIELD and find a GODZILLA movie online this week to get a bit more excited. It seems action-packed, and frankly, I want to see the movie right now, and not just the trailer. But I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Idris Elba shout, “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”

3. Only God Forgives (7/19)

4. Only God Forgives (7/19)

Plot: Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.

I love Ryan Gosling and the director, Nicholas Winding Refn, and DRIVE is one of my favourite movies of 2011. The story intrigues me, as well. While critics haven’t exactly been praising the movie, I think it could be pretty awesome. It might be wavering my expectations ever-so-slightly, but I’m still really looking forward to it.

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

Plot: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

I think James Wan is a fantastic director. I’ll have to watch INSIDIOUS to get a vibe of his atmospheric haunting flicks, though. This looks absolutely terrifying, and while I’ll probably be watching the movie through the my fingers, I can hardly wait. Vera Farmiga is great, too. The trailer creeps the hell out of me, and I love it. The true story edge is even spookier – so, I just want it to be July 19 already. It would be great if this will birth a Warren files franchise.

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

Plot: 14-year-old Duncan’s summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and his daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

I love a good coming-of-age tale. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is my second-favourite movie of 2012. And THE DESCENDANTS is one of my favourite movies of 2011. Two of the Oscar-winning writers from that movie (Nat Faxon, supporting actor in most of the Broken Lizard movies, and Jim Rash, the Dean on TV’s COMMUNITY) co-write and direct this one. I love the cast so much. Steve Carrell as a major jerk, Sam Rockwell, Rash in a supporting role, AnnaSophia Robb, and Rob Corddry, Toni Colette and Allison Janney. Suffice to say, it sounds amazing – and I can hardly wait for this to come to my city.

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

Plot: Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.

I love the original DESPICABLE ME 2. This sequel looks amazing and hilarious. I can hardly wait for it. I love Gru and the minions, and I think this will be a real winner with a lot of heart and some great action. And new villains, of course. This is not only my most anticipated movie of July – but it’s probably my most anticipated movie of the year. (But, I’ll have to make a list to see if that’s true. I might be a bit more excited for KICK-ASS 2.) I can’t wait to have a second helping of the minion madness, though. Anything under a score of 75 will be disappointing. I hope this is in the same league as the first.

Here’s all of the movies opening in July: http://www.imdb.com/movies-coming-soon/2013-07/

Orphan – A film review by Daniel Prinn – An effective and chilling psychological thriller

Orphan

Release Date: July 24, 2009

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Stars: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman

Runtime: 123 min

Tagline: There’s something wrong with Esther.

 

This is definitely the best film I’ve seen from director Jaume Collet-Serra (the other two being Unknown and the House of Wax remake).

When a married couple with multiple problems lose a child in the womb, they set out for something to fill the missing part of their relationship at a local orphanage. They find Esther, and she seems like a really sweet little Russian girl. They bring her home and, eventually, bizarre and vicious occurances start happening, where Esther seems to always be there. Kate is the only one who seems to see Esther for sinister colours, and must expose her before it’s too late.

This movie is a rather orignal horror/thriller that has great twists and turns, and is a real treat for horror and mystery lovers, as it brings something fresh to the genre. It has wicked suspense and is very creepy, and I liked it a lot. It’s rarely ever boring, and can really keep your attention throughout (for a lot of it), and some scenes you can see some things coming (but rarely). It has some pretty great pacing, though. It really is carried along well enough by some solid performances.

It can be really original, but some of its themes and even scenes were very reminiscent of The Good Son.

*SPOILER, the following explains some scenes in the film*

In this one there’s a scene in the woods where a bird gets shot and in The Good Son; there was a scene in the woods where a dog got shot. There was a person who is believed to be the Person Who Cried Wolf in both: Kate in this one, and no one would believe her because of her expected alcoholism, and in The Good Son; where no one will believe Mark because of the loss of his mother, and everyone thinks it’s a cry for attention.  And the similar psychopathic issues: disturbed, psychopathic, manipulative, cunning and charming.

 *END OF SPOILERS*

 Though, even though how similar they seem to be, this film has more twists and turns and

can be more complex, while Good Son had a simpler plot compared to this. It was better in many ways, and more entertaining. Esther (Orphan) was much creepier than Henry (T.G.S.).

 I don’t see why though that this family would need another daughter, I guess to fill the hole, but they already have enough problems on their hands, why add in a psychopathic child? Though, I love the film’s ability to show the fear that the characters are feeling and other emotions, as well as some of the character’s general ignorance.

This film stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman as the show-stealing eerie and troubled Esther, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Margo Martindale and Aryana Engineer.

If you expect a film that’s thoroughly scary, you may not get it because there’s only a few big scares, but it is an effective and chilling psychological thriller.

Orphan is just all thoroughly entertaining and it would be high up there on my list of favourite psychological horror/thrillers. Fans of horror films, creepy stories, mind games of a film,  and good film twists, should really give this one a watch.

80/100

Vera Farmiga given the role of Mrs. Bates, heck she wouldn’t even hurt a fly

Vera Farmiga

 Vera Farmiga; the star of such films as The DepartedUp in the Air, OrphanSource Code and Safe House; will be joining the cast of A&E’s 2013 TV Series ‘Bates Motel’, as the notorious Mrs. Bates.

 The show is is a prequel to the Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film, Psycho.

 The show will depict the events that occurred before Psycho, and how Norman’s mental state came to be.

 The character description for Mrs. Bates (a.k.a. Norma Louise) is as follows: abusive, passionate, complicated, often unpredictable, compelling smart and multidimensional.

 Norman Bates hasn’t been cast yet, so I’m pretty excited to see who will get that awesome role.

Safe House (2012)

Safe House

Release Date: February 10, 2012

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Stars: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga

Runtime: 115 min

Tagline: No one is safe.

Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a young CIA agent whose mission is to go to this safe house and look after a fugitive, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington). Frost used to be a great CIA agent, until he turned rogue. It turns out others want Frost dead, too. After the safe house is attacked, Weston must protect Frost at all costs.

The action sequences are pretty great at the time, but they aren’t very memorable at all. There’s also quite a few boring scenes.  The plot also isn’t all that memorable either, and it can get a little complicated at times – when you’d think a film with such a seemingly simple plot wouldn’t involve any thinking power at all.

The performances are decent, Washington is the best in his role, though. This movie stars Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick and Joel Kinnaman.

What you get is an action film I could live without, but I enjoyed quite a few aspects of it. Nothing I regret seeing but it just left a feeling of “that could have been so much better,” by the end of the running time. It isn’t a total waste of time as some of it’s interesting, see it if the opportunity comes along; as some of it has some good action and isn’t a complete fail of a film.

I was generally disappointed by this really decent action flick that could have been greater, considering it has seemingly such a simple plot and a great cast, but ended up being unfortunately between average and pretty good.

63/100