The Conjuring (2013) Review

The-Conjuring-2013-Movie-TitleThere seems to be a general consensus amongst critics and moviegoers about the horror genre: it just isn’t what it used to be.  With maybe the exceptions of Sinister (2012) and Insidious (2010), nothing has really left a huge impression on audiences since the 1970s with genre classics such as The Exorcist (1973).  Saying that, for as good as Sinister and Insidious were, there was still something lacking in their formula that left me feeling dissatisfied with the end of both films.  So when I went to see The Conjuring (2013) the Friday that it came out, my expectations weren’t that high.

THE CONJURINGThe Conjuring follows story of the Perron’s, your typical working class family, who move into a new home in Rhode Island in 1971 and are terrorized by an evil entity.  In desperate need of help, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are contacted and uncover the houses dark history and agenda.

It’s your typical haunted house movie where the family moves in, the pet starts acting weird, the pet dies, things start to gradually escalate, someone might get possessed, throw an exorcism in there and BAM, you’ve got The Conjuring.  I’ve seen it a million times, it’s predictable, I know what’s probably going to happen!  But hey, I’m a sucker for a goodStill 6 from The Conjuring ghost story and The Conjuring, even though I knew what was going to be thrown at me at every turn, still caught me off guard and definitely left it’s impression on me (I slept with both legs underneath my blankets that night).

From acting to wardrobe, everything was ace in The Conjuring.  Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga were excellent in their roles as investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, and Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston and the girls who played their daughters were believable in their role of the terrified family.

Since the film was set in the 1970s, there was a great authentic feel to it.  From wardrobe, props, even camera zooms, you can tell that The Conjuring definitely paid homage to the classic horrors from the 1970s.

And I have to say; the atmosphere in this movie was great!  It had some of the best buildups in a horror movie that I have ever experienced.  I felt very tense during the scenes that were called for, and even though in my head, I knew what was going to happen, I still jumped in my seat quite a few times (damn that ghost maid!).

There were few things that I didn’t like about the movie that are very miniscule.  I wasn’t a fan of the sappy romantic moments that Ed and Lorraine had, or the very brief flashback sequence of the family portrait at the beach that ultimately helps Carolyn Perron fight the demon inside of her.  But none of these things were overwhelming enough to sway my overall opinion of the film and probably just draw from my cynical attitude towards romance.

And even though a lot of people weren’t happy with the ending, I didn’t mind it!  We’ve become so accustomed to horror having endings in which the movie isn’t fully resolved like IMG_0278.dngthe characters thought it was that we expect all horror movies to now end with basically someone dying.  But I was glad that everything worked out for the Perron’s in the end.  I suppose that the exorcism at the end was rushed and not that climactic but I can live with that!  As for the very very end of the film, I enjoyed the nod that was given when Lorraine mentions “a house on Long Island” that they’ve been asked to look at.  If you haven’t been clued in, that house on Long Island was the infamous Amityville horror house.

And the closing scene with the music box toyed with the audiences’ feelings. It left me feeling tense and on edge… for what?  I’ll never know…

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A breath of fresh air, The Conjuring proves to us that sometimes the most effective way to scare an audience is to keep the formula simple.

Review: Warm Bodies (2013)

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The zombie genre has had a surge of popularity as of recently.  From The Walking Dead to the upcoming World War Z (2013), zombie’s seem to be everywhere in popular culture nowadays.

So in the midst of this flesh eating gore fest of a genre, we’ve got Warm Bodies (2013), based on the book by Isaac Marion, which takes a different kind of approach to the typical zombie film.

Warm-Bodies-r-warm-bodies-33683203-1200-825R (Nicholas Hoult) is an unusually introspective zombie who longs to feel human again. When he and a group of other zombies are feeding on a group of human’s who are scavenging for supplies, he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer) and feels an urge to protect her, rather than attack and eat her flesh.  As their friendship develops, R starts to become more human.  Witnessing this change in him, the other zombies start to regain their humanity back as well. And together, humans and zombies must bridge the gap between them and protect each other from a mutual threat: the “Bonies”.

I never got to see Warm Bodies in theaters, but I’ve been wanting to see this for some time now, even though it kind of reminded me of a zombie version of Twilight when I saw some of the trailers for it.  However, it looked different, and I was curious.  There is a love story in this movie: R and Julie (Romeo and Juliet, anybody?).  However, it’s not the complete focus or theme of the film.  Warm Bodies is not a zombie version of Twilight because it possesses not only a better love story, but also a better plot in general, as well as better acting.

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer are great.  They brought personality to their charactersWarmBodies and I loved watching them on screen- together and separately.  The rest of the cast does a good job on their part, but film mainly focuses on Hoult and Palmer.  I especially enjoyed Hoult because he brought life to a character that is a lifeless monster.  It was fun to watch.

I really enjoyed the tone in the film.  For a movie about the zombie apocalypse, it was quite humorous.  I mean, there were serious parts in the film where it was necessary, but they never lasted long enough to put a damper on the rest of the film.

But one of the most interesting things about Warm Bodies is that it is told from the point of view of a zombie, something that I’ve never seen done before.  R longs to feel human WARM BODIESagain: he wants to feel emotion, dream, and connect with the world around him.  He collects objects like vinyl records because it makes him feel more alive.  I found this whole concept so interesting because I felt myself relating to R, even though he’s a zombie and I’m a human.  But, like R, as humans, we want to connect with others; we all have emotions, dreams, goals, and conflicts; we all long for companionship.  I mean, I know on occasion I’ve used the phrase “I feel like a zombie” anytime I’ve ever felt disoriented or depressed or so stressed out about life that I would just shut down and stop thinking.  It kind of reminded me of the social commentary on consumer culture that George Romero made with Dawn of Dead (1978), minus the fact that there’s no emphasis on consumer culture in Warm Bodies.  The lesson that can be taken from the movie is that the only necessities that humans truly need to be happy aren’t materialistic ones.

Keep in mind though, even though I just went into analysis mode with this movie, Warm Bodies isn’t a masterpiece in any way whatsoever.  It’s more “date night” material, if you will and it doesn’t really offer a definitive reason for why the zombies start to become human again; but I would argue that we never really get a definitive answer for the origins of the zombie virus that infects humanity in zombie films either… Also, if you’re looking for horror and gore, this is not the movie for you: it’s not scary or gory at all.

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In short, Warm Bodies is simply a pretty cool movie.  It’s entertaining, has good acting, a good plot, and is an interesting take on the zombie genre.

Trailer: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

A new trailer has been released for Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013), the anticipated sequel to the creepy and atmospheric horror Insidious (2010).

I enjoyed the atmosphere and tone of the first movie and am curious to see what they do with the sequel, seeing as the end of the first film was quite dramatic and abrupt.

Insidious: Chapter 2 will be released in theaters Friday, September 13, 2013.

Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald… Almost every high school in America includes this novel in their curriculum.  My high school did not do this book justice, and I recently re-read Gatsby and fell in love with it.  For as hopeless as it seems to end, The Great Gatsby is beautiful and rhythmic, built on symbolism and metaphor.  Everyone should read this book at least once in their life… seriously.

I’ve never seen any other film adaptation of the novel, however, I’ve heard that there are a few out there and that they suck (for lack of a better term).  So when I started seeing trailers for this version of Gatsby, I got really excited.  Then I started hearing some mixed reviews, which made me a little nervous about seeing it.  However, after having the weekend to really digest what I saw, I can say that even though it didn’t live up to the novel (no movie adaptation ever will, let’s be honest), I was content with what Baz Luhrmann presented us with.

the-great-gatsby-2013-movie-sceneThe Great Gatsby (2013) is narrated by Nick Carraway, a mid-Westerner who moves to New York City in order to pursue a career in stocks and bonds, even though what he really wants to do is write.  He moves into a small cottage in West Egg, across the river from his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, and next door to the mysterious Jay Gatsby.  As Nick gets pulled into the lavish lives of the rich and the shallow, he is also drawn to the mystery that surrounds Gatsby’s past and who he really is.

There were things about Luhrmann’s adaptation that I liked and disliked.

To start with, I wasn’t really a big fan of some of the music that was present in the film.  It was a cool concept that I thought would be interesting, however, at times it kind of took away from the whole Roaring ‘20s feel that the movie should have had.  However, the remixes of modern day music with a jazzy spin on them were kind of cool.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the narrative in the film.  After discussing this with my mom, I can understand how the narrative would have helped for some people who have never read the novel.  However, I wasn’t really buying into it.  I thought it was corny, mainly because of the dialogue between Nick and his doctor.  When it was just Nick and his typewriter with the voice over narration—that was when I enjoyed the narrative the most.

Now let’s talk about the visuals, because they’re kind of hard to ignore.  I really like them.  I liked all the attention to detail and how lavish and beautiful everything looked.  However, they were very overwhelming… and sometimes cartoonish, which put me off a little bit.

As far as acting went, nobody was terrible but nobody was outstanding either—with one exception.  This was Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie—he was a great Gatsby (do you seegreat-gatsby photo 3 what I did there?!).  The one qualm that I have with this movie is that they didn’t just let the actors act because the majority of the time, the visual aspects drowned everything out.  But DiCaprio really did capture the essence of Jay Gatsby, this harsh metaphor for the American Dream who’s stuck in the past.

This was a very respectful adaptation of the novel.  The Great Gatsby is a book with a  plot that revolves around metaphor and symbolism—the green light, the downfall of the American Dream, the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, time, etc.  I thought that the film was very reverent in portraying these things.  For example, in one scene where Gatsby, Nick, and Daisy are sitting in Nick’s living room, Gatsby accidentally knocks over a clock on the mantel and breaks it.  As he’s trying to repair it, he starts to beat it, but fails in repairing it.  Time is something that Gatsby wants to control, as portrayed in his famous quote: “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” and in the end, he has no control over it and he doesn’t get to go back in time with Daisy Buchanan.  I don’t know if the scene was improvised or intentional.  I’d like to think it was intentional because I really enjoyed how subtle, yet how important to the outcome of the story it was.

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Overall, I really enjoyed The Great Gatsby.  It wasn’t perfect, however, it’s far from terrible.  It was very respectful to the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  And hell, it’ll give the kids something interesting to watch in English classes all across America now!

Review: Evil Dead (2013)

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So I went to the movies for the first time since before Christmas (I think) and saw Evil Dead (2013) with my little sister who just turned 16 today.  Let me first start by saying that this is, in fact, not the scariest movie I have ever seen.  However, it is by no accounts a terrible film.

I’ve never seen the original The Evil Dead (1981) series, so I don’t know how true to the original this was.  I’m still unsure of whether that’s a good thing or not while writing this review.  Does it make my opinion of this irrelevant if I haven’t seen the original series?  I hope not!  Regardless, here we go… (This review will contain some spoilers)

Evil-Dead-2013.-Book-of-the-Dead-1.1In order to help his sister, Mia (Jane Levy), go through drug withdrawal, David (Shiloh Fernandez) and three other friends (Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore) bring her to their family’s cabin out in the middle of the woods to help with her rehabilitation.  During their stay, they discover a gruesome scene in the basement: dead cats hanging from the ceiling of their basement along with an ominous bound book.  With curiosity getting the best of him, one of the inhabitants of the house opens the book and reads from it, releasing an evil that possesses Mia and starts to consume each of them until only one is left to make a stand.

First things first, this film is EXTREMELY gory.  If you’re into that stuff, then this film is probably for you!  If gore is not your cup of tea, then you probably shouldn’t see this film!  A lot of the effects that were done in this movie were done with prosthetics and even though the results are nasty, they’re really impressive!  The only time I recall CGI being used was in a scene at the beginning of the movie where a possessed girl is burned alive.

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Jane Levy gave a stellar performance in this movie!  Her character was the only one that I can honestly say I really cared about, and I thought for sure that she was going to be the first to die.  I’m glad that she got to be the final girl.  She goes from being completely terrified to pure evil and it’s amazing to watch.  She also kicked ass in the final showdown.

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Other than Mia being the final girl, I felt that the rest of the movie was pretty predictable, probably because we’ve heard “the cabin the woods” story so many times.  I jumped once and it was over something that wasn’t even scary (which was embarrassing).  Maybe I’vejanelevy1 just become accustomed to horror movies and their dynamics and that’s why I wasn’t particularly scared while watching this film (that’s highly unlikely).  However, just because I didn’t find it scary doesn’t mean other people won’t think it’s scary.  And a lot of people really enjoyed this film.

Evil Dead is definitely a force to be reckoned with.  Even though I’ve never seen the original series, I hope that, for the fans, this film did it justice.