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…

images

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.

Advertisements

Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

Great-Gatsby Movie

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.

Baz-Luhrmann-The-Great-Gatsby-Green-Light

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)

silver-linings-playbook

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.

llanerch-diner-silver-linings2-680uw

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.

Review: The Artist (2011)


Out of all the movies at the 84th Academy Awards, one movie stood out amongst the rest.  Why, may you ask did this movie stand out amongst the rest? Because it was a silent film nominated at the Academy Awards, in the year 2012…

This is the one reason why The Artist peeked my interest.  I was in an American Film class that semester and we had just finished up with the silent film era and watched movies starring the likes of Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Charlie Chaplin.  I had never watched a silent film until this class and surprisingly, I enjoyed the ones I saw.  Needless to say, I was dying to see The Artist (that and a lot of people that I knew were pretty adamant in stating their disapproval over it’s Best Picture win).

The Artist is about a silent film star, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), who meets a girl named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo)and inspires her to try her luck in the film industry.  With the introduction of talking pictures in Hollywood, Peppy’s career starts to blossom, while George’s career and life crumbles as he tries to hold on to the past.

This movie reminded me of Singing In the Rain– minus the whole musical/comedy/romance.  But the plot is similar: silent movie star finding life difficult with the introduction of the talking pictures.  Whereas Singing In The Rain took more of a comedic route with the subject matter, this film looks at what it legitimately was like for those silent movie stars that fell from grace when the talkies were introduced.  Basically, it sucked.  The Artist also tips it’s hat off to films like Citizen Kane and Sunset Boulevard, filmmakers like Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder, and actors such as Douglas Fairbanks.

Other than one scene, a dream sequence, where George starts hearing sounds all around him but finds that he cannot talk, I did feel like I was watching a silent movie from back in the 1920s most of the time.  The opening credits are that of which you would see in old movies, with a list of characters and actors, crew, etc.  However, the dream sequence and the last scene of the film pull you out of that mindset, but they do so in a way that makes you as viewer not mind the transition at all.

I liked the conflict between sound and silence.  These two things are made very obvious in the film.  The juxtaposition of the two is shown most evidently in the characters of George (silence) and Peppy (sound).  If this movie had been made with sound, being just about a fallen silent film star and the trials and tribulations he has to go through, there wouldn’t have been anything unique about this film.

At times, I felt that this movie would get dramatic to the point of stupidity (the scene where George starts a fire in his angst filled rage and then has an “OH CRAP!” moment in which he tries to escape).  However, I really did enjoy this movie.  I enjoyed it’s uniqueness, I enjoyed it’s cliché Hollywood ending, and I enjoyed it as an homage to old Hollywood and the past.  I enjoyed The Artist.

Oh, and the dog was pretty cute to, I guess.

Review: Brick (2005)

I received a comment on my post about film noir’s from Samuel Mulder about any neo noir films that I would recommend other than the likes of Pulp Fiction or Chinatown.  At the time, I had no answer to his inquiry… I do now.

Brick was recommended to me by a fellow classmate in my seminar over the summer and it peaked my interest for mainly one reason: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  As I’ve mentioned before, I kinda fancy him.  And other than Ten Things I Hate About You, I haven’t really seen any of his earlier work.  The trailer looked interesting, so I had to see what this movie was all about.

Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a high school loner, is sought out by his ex-girlfriend who has gotten herself into some trouble.  When she winds up dead, he decides to investigate her murder and gets himself caught up in the underbelly of a teenage crime ring.

The plot sounds a little unrealistic and far-fetched.  A noir detective story that is set in high school.  Huh?  It sounds weird, but the cool thing about it is that, surprisingly, it works!

This movie has all the elements of a noir:

  • The hard boiled detective (Brendan)
  • Quick, witty banter
  • The femme fatale
  • Crime

There are also some points in the film were statuettes of falcons are shown, an obvious nod to The Maltese Falcon.

The storyline was a little hard to follow at some points; however, it wouldn’t be noir if it weren’t.  Also, there’s a lot of mumbling (to the point where I couldn’t really understand what the actors were saying).

The acting was very good in this movie.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a good job at portraying the anti hero/hard boiled detective/high school loner.  Emilie de Ravin did a good job with her role for the little amount of time we do see her.  Matt O’Leary plays Brain and I really liked this character and thought he did a great job with the role.  We don’t get to see Brain that often in the movie, however I like the ambiguity of this character.  A lot of people talk about him being a figment of Brendon’s imagination, which is kind of supported in the movie: the only person that ever sees him or talks to him in person is Brendon.  However, this is just a theory and it is left up to the viewer.

I really enjoyed this movie.  I like how they incorporated the aspects of film noir into it.  It’s an interesting take on noir that keeps you on the edge of your seat!

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I have two things that I must own up to:

  1. I’ve neglected this blog for a bit.  And I apologize.  School has been my top priority recently.
  2. I haven’t seen any of the big blockbuster movies that have come out this summer, except “The Dark Knight Rises”…  Didn’t see “Avengers”, didn’t see “Brave”, didn’t see “The Amazing Spiderman”.  I’m sorry, ok?!  Hopefully, the fact that I did get to see “The Dark Knight Rises” will make up for all of that…. maybe.

With all of that being said, is there any point to writing a review of “The Dark Knight Rises”?  I mean, seriously, I don’t understand how anyone could not like this movie.

“The Dark Knight Rises” takes places 8 years after the events of “The Dark Knight”.  Gotham has found peace after the death of Harvey Dent and Batman has stepped out of the picture, a vigilante turned enemy of the city, taking the blame for Dent’s death so that Gotham can get its shit together (pardon the language).  That peace is broken, however, when Bane (Tom Hardy) steps into the picture and all hell breaks loose.

Christian Bale returns as Batman/Bruce Wayne and, as always, does a fantastic job in his portrayal of the Dark Knight.  I have to say though, there was more emotion in his performance in this movie than there has been in the previous two, and this ultimately worked extremely well for the entire film.

Gary Oldman is back as Lieutenant Gordon and, because it is Gary Oldman we’re talking about, he is awesome.

Michael Caine as Alfred was heartbreaking.  A couple of times, he nearly had me in tears.

Christian Bale and Michael Caine in “The Dark Knight Rises”

Marion Cotillard is Miranda Tate.  Her role may seem small, however, her character is an important factor towards the end of the film, and she pulls it off nicely.

Joseph Gordon Levitt  plays police officer John Blake.  Other than the fact that I have a huge crush on this man, I think he is an excellent actor, and I am extremely happy with how he has been in so many great movies (Inception, 500 Days of Summer, 50/50)  and has pulled off great performances.  This movie is no exception.  He is amazing.

Joseph Gordon Levitt in “The Dark Knight Rises”

Anne Hathaway stole the show for me as Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman).  I was not expecting the girl from “The Princess Diaries” to pull off this role.  But she did, and I was extremely impressed.

Anne Hathaway in “The Dark Knight Rises”

Last, but certainly not least, is Tom Hardy as Bane.  When I found out that Bane was going to be the villain in this movie, I wasn’t very ecstatic about it, I must admit.  Bane?! I thought.  After Heath Ledger’s Joker, they’re going to try and pull off Bane as the next villain?  I will say this, though- no actor in the world will ever be able to portray the Joker as amazingly as Heath Ledger did… ever.  However, I am being completely honest when I say that Tom Hardy as Bane was completely terrifying.  He literally leaves you feeling like there is no hope for anybody.  He is in control and he is indestructible.  It was everything that you expect in a villain.

Tom Hardy in “The Dark Knight Rises”

Amazing, phenomenal, fantastic… These words can’t even come close to describing what Christopher Nolan pulled off.  And it really is a shame that he won’t be coming back to make another one.

Everything about this movie is amazing- the acting, the visuals, the effects, the plot- everything is there.  Everything works.  Everything is great.

When I saw this movie, everyone in the theater was literally sitting forward in their seats in anticipation.  The entire theater was completely silent, just taking everything in- a testiment to how great this movie is, when you can go to a theater in my town and be in the presence of an audience full of movie-watchers who are not being obnoxious.

It’s an adrenaline rush that keeps delivering and keeps you wanting more.

Did you see “The Dark Knight Rises” yet?  What did you think of it?