June 11, 2016

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

  • James Wan continues to prove he is a major name in the horror genre
  • The same creepy, eerie atmosphere from the original film
  • Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are as great as ever
  • The nun painting scene is insane
  • Annabelle cameo
  • Effective original score

  • Just like the original film, it's terribly derivative
  • Overlong for a horror movie
  • Scenes involving the girl being possessed come off as overly silly
  • Final battle scene very anticlimactic
  • Questionable CGI characters
  • Ed blind, deaf, and dumb POV scenes
  • Awkward exposition scenes towards the end of the movie
  • Nun's CGI mouth

Score: 5/10

The Conjuring 2 is a mixed bag of a movie. It has some unquestionable scary scenes but it also has a ton of unnecessary jump scares where the volume goes from whisper quite to jet engine loud. I'm sure the average Joe or teenager will eat them up and proclaim the movie to be a horror classic, but to me it's not scares that makes a horror movie great. That being said, if you are someone that doesn't mind jump scares, you will most likely eat this movie up!

A lot of the good ideas and moments from the first film are present here in the sequel, the likable Warrens, a standout scare scene (the painting scene), plenty of hair raising tension, and an eerie score. The problem, however, is that it's all dragged out over the course of two hours and ten minutes. That leaves plenty of time for boredom to set in and room for those less engaging moments (or should I say numerous, cheap jump scare scenes). It seems as though the executives or producers of the movie wanted Wan to throw in as many scares as possible, ignoring pacing and runtime. Which leads to many scenes being unnecessarily long and plenty of throw away jump scares.

Not only are some scare scenes tepid, but some are flat out cheesy. Anytime the girl is possessed and the evil, old man 'speaks' it's damn near laughable. Mostly because 'a man's voice coming out of a little girl' isn't anything new nor is it haunting. It's cliche at this point and the movie doesn't seem to understand that.

When all's said and done, The Conjuring 2 has the same eerie atmosphere from the first film that made it enjoyable, but also the generic storyline that plagued the first film. Amplify that story with an unbearable two hour plus runtime and you get, in my opinion, a failed sequel (even if it does have some scary scenes).

May 15, 2016

Green Room (2016)

  • Patrick Stewart is fantastic as the level-headed, calculating, neo-nazi leader
  • Incredibly realistic violence (something the director prides himself on)
  • A great thriller that takes no time getting the band trapped in the green room
  • Formidable bad guys for once, no shooting point blank and missing found here
  • One of those movies that gets you thinking about how you would handle such a situation
  • One of the years must see thrillers

  • The characters are paper thin and barely established
  • Sometimes difficult to hear what Patrick Stewart is saying to his goons
  • One could argue why they didn't just bumrush the people in the green room from the start
  • No real emotional connection between the band members

Score: 8/10

Some movies have over-the-top violence (The Evil Dead), some have excessive violence (Inside), and some have realistic violence, that's Green Room. Following up the out-of-no-where hit Blue Ruin, Saulnier returns with another tension-fueled story with crazy realistic violence that cuts to the bone. This may not have a complex story like Blue Ruin, but it's definitely a step up in terms of tension and trepidation.

And no, Green Room isn't just the type of movie that has violence for the sake of violence, this movie earns the violence. It's doled out in small short bursts, but those small bursts are incredibly potent and shocking. Every bit a carnage shown on screen is earned through tension building up and releasing in horrible acts of mayhem.

Not only does the movie present the audience with the obvious fear of death (specifically by mauling) but it also presents us with the fear of a real, competent antagonist. Patrick Stewart's character is menacing without ever doling out any violence, he's smart, calculating, and manipulative. It's not often you see movies where the bad guys actually outsmart the heroes multiple times. And that's the real fear factor here, a formidable bad guy in a near helpless situation. That's what makes the movie so damn good, the characters are screwed and both we the audience and the characters themselves know it.

Obviously, the downside of Green Room is the paper thin characters who receive little to no development. I honestly couldn't even tell you their names at this point. I wish we were shown a bit more friendly acts amongst the group to reinforce our emotional connection between them or amongst themselves. They hardly felt like actual friends, it was more like they were random people coming together to perform a few songs and nothing more.

Outside of the weak characters, there are still plenty of twists and turns the characters must go up against which only makes the movie all the more exciting. The general premise might sound tepid or simple but Saulnier knows exactly what he is doing and creates a ton of tension that more than makes up for the lack of a complex story. This is one of the years must see thrillers!

May 07, 2016

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

  • Arguably the MCU's best movie to date
  • Black Panther, Spiderman, and Antman steal the show, easily the best additions to the Avengers
  • Great battle scenes (specifically the airport scene)
  • Another well-balanced movie that juggles comedy with action
  • Two hilarious scenes (both taking place in the VW)
  • Though the third act doesn't feature the best action scene, it features a powerful emotional hit
  • Vision wearing sweaters

  • The stakes still don't feel like they are there quite yet (again, probably holding out for Infinity War (or whatever they are going to be called now))
  • Some characters power levels fluctuate quite a bit
  • Lots of shaky cam during some fight scenes early on
  • Another terribly lame post credits scene

Score: 8/10

Just when you thought they couldn't make a better movie than The Avengers, the Russo brothers go and make something like this. The idea of Civil War is tricky, pitting friends against one another all the while they try to remain 'the good guys'. You might be questioning why the would turn on one another, but the script actually provides some sound reasoning per character. Guilt ( mixed with fear) consumes those who wish to sign the accords and limit their impunity, while those opposing feel the politics behind it won't solve a thing.

Captain America: Civil War (aka The Avengers 2.5) might just be the best MCU movie to date (I'm sure the general public will label it as such). While that may be up in the air, it without a doubt features the best action sequence of the entire franchise, the airport scene. Not only does it feature some new unseen heroes fighting for the first time, but it also features ample amount of humor (mostly thanks to Spiderman). It is the highlight of the movie and actually the highlight of the franchise so far. 

But again, the main fault in my eyes (as usual) is that we are still treading water on a cosmic level. Thanos and his minions are still plotting their schemes and have yet to make their presence known to the Avengers. I'm still hopeful to get more screen time away from Earth and get the feeling the entire universe is in peril. One can only hope.

As a whole though, Civil War is a fantastic blockbuster. It features more avengers than any movie to date and gives us plenty of action pieces to make the two hour and 30 minutes run-time fly by. 

April 29, 2016

From Beyond (1986)

  • Those classic 80s sci-fi special effects (practical effects being superior to CGI in the horror genre)
  • Another movie that just reeks of the 80s which I typically enjoy
  • I loved how the movie dives right into the story in the opening seconds of the film
  • Sucking out people's brains through their eye socket!
  • "Humans are such easy prey"
  • Heavily Lovecraftian

  • All around the movie can be summed up as too campy for its own good
  • Barbara Crampton's constantly screaming throughout the later half of the movie
  • The acting certainly is nothing to brag about here, again something that feels way over the top
  • The movie doesn't spend enough time in the other dimension, it's like the movie is constantly teasing us
  • Should have tried a bit harder to dip into the horror genre to help avoid being this campy
  • The story feels paper thin, or in general lacking more depth in order to make the movie interesting
  • A very lackluster ending that doesn't come close to being satisfying (where does she get a bomb from?)

Score: 4/10

It's unfortunate, but From Beyond can't help but be compared to the superior Re-Animator. Both films are directed by Stuart Gordon, star the same two leads, and are influenced by Lovecraft, so it's hard not to make comparisons. While on paper they seem similar, the movies themselves are quite different in terms of quality, unfortunately. From Beyond seemed not to try hard enough to create some type of structure to keep the story afloat, whereas Re-Animator perfectly meshed the horror/comedy genres and created some fantastic scenes with sound structure. Basically, From Beyond felt too silly and campy for its own good, you can attribute that to both the direction and the acting. The slim and ick-factor are both here, but the typical charm and enjoyment factors aren't.

The overall idea is creepy in itself (unknown dimensions), but the execution of the story seemed to be lacking. The opening moments reveal the protagonist, but then the following 80 minutes nothing really comes from it. The story seemed to go absolutely nowhere, and in fact I could hardly tell you what it was trying to accomplish. And, of course, there were all those sexual undertones, where they necessary to the story, who knows? Maybe I failed to grasps the film's overall message of sexual exploration and all that, but what was given was scarce and more importantly lame.

Like I said, it's hard not to compare this film to the vastly superior Re-Animator. While the special effects here are fantastic (I love the 80s gore effects), they can't save From Beyond from being dull and joyless. Not a disastrous movie but the movie doesn't even close to reaching the heights of other 80s sci-fi classics.

April 11, 2016

The Invitation (2015)

  • Logan Marshall-Green (aka Tom Hardy) proves he's a capable actor
  • A perfect atmosphere of awkwardness and paranoia
  • Plenty of moments that reinforce the idea that something sinister may or may not be at play
  • A simplistic original score (no more than 3-4 pieces but they are used effectively)
  • The third act is well worth the wait (no disappointments here)
  • The final image

  • A few times where the pacing slows down
  • Some character's backgrounds are kept in the dark
  • The climax may come a bit too late for some people

Score: 8/10

The Invitation will certainly go down as a hidden gem in the thriller/horror genre in the coming months. It was recently released on VOD with damn near no publicity so hopefully word-of-mouth will save this movie. So far it is a critical hit (over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes) and was a fan favorite at the numerous film festivals it premiered at months ago.

LMG plays a damaged man who has been through a lot in his life and is still grieving for his past mistakes. He and a few others get invited to a mysterious dinner party where things go from normal to strange very, very quickly. But the interesting thing is only one character (LMG) seems to see the strangeness while everyone else is laughing it up and enjoying the night. It's interesting because he isn't afraid to speak his mind about how he feels the night is going and what he finds 'strange'. But the sad part is, he's seen as a damaged soul so his outbursts are immediately dismissed. It's the subtle clues he notices (something as basic as a drinking game or a bottle of expensive wine) that make The Invitation suspenseful. Tiny clues that leave you guessing that something larger is at play, which may or may not be the case. 

To say anything more would be potentially spoiling the movie, and with most movies, it's the ending that makes or breaks a movie and this one is no different. The ending is well worth the wait, so if you are a fan of suspenseful movies, this is one of the years must see thrillers.

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