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: 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: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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I didn’t anticipate that it would take me this long to see Silver Linings Playbook (2012)!  I meant to see it when it was released in theaters, however, other things got in the way.  In the meantime, I had heard some good things about it, and some not so good things.  So when I finally watched this movie, I tried to clear all that out of my head so that I could form my own opinion… with only a little bit of bias I suppose.

246_SLP-09226[1]--621x414Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a mental institution and moves back in with his parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver).  His goals include getting his old job back, reconciling and reconnecting with his ex-wife, and trying to find the “silver linings” in his life.  This proves tough, however, as he is also trying to deal with his bipolar disorder.  When he meets a girl named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), they form a friendship that ends up helping one another in more ways than they imagined.

Fun fact about Silver Linings Playbook: if you ever wanted to know what my hometown of Upper Darby looked like, all you would have to do is watch this movie because it was filmed there!  I remember all the hype going on during the making of this movie, and how annoying it could get (thank you strange movie person for the directions, I had no idea how to maneuver around the town I’ve lived in my entire life).  However, it was really cool seeing some familiar places featured in the film like the Llanerch Diner, Prendie, and the Lansdowne Theater.

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Back to the film… I didn’t really know what to expect from it.  It seemed like it was marketed as a rom-com but watching it, it definitely didn’t feel that way even with the romance factor present.  It was so much more than that.  The film is basically about people trying to deal with their mental illness, and life in general.  It’s crazy at times, as well as heartbreaking.  There was a bit of a cynical tone to the movie, which I appreciated because I can be quite a cynical person, however it was balanced out nicely with the positive message that is portrayed- there is always a silver lining, you just have to find it.  It may take time, but if you try to be positive and let go of all the negativity that life throws at you, you’ll be able to attain it.

silver-linings-playbook-review3Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were great in this film.  Cooper’s always been one of those actors who played that douche bag in that one movie, so it was nice seeing him take on a more serious role; and boy did he nail it!  Lawrence is one of Hollywood’s best young actresses at the moment and she does a fine job next to Cooper, which earned her a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.  The supporting cast also does a great job and really helped tie the movie together.

If you go into Silver Linings Playbook with the idea that it’s some generic romantic comedy, then you’re dead wrong.  The film deals with mental illness, and real emotions that people go through, while reminding us that we’re all kind of “off our rockers” in some way.  It’s a film about seeing the positive in seemingly impossible situations.