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The Conjuring 2 Review

Very Good

Continuing on from the 2013 hit, this sequel blends fact and fiction to follow real-life ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) from the 1976 Amityville haunting to an encounter with the Enfield poltergeist in 1977 London. Filmmaker James Wan continues to deploy every cinematic gimmick he knows to freak out the audience, and the fact that it's based on a true story makes it even more unsettling. Although the cliches of the genre feel a bit tired.

The story opens in Amityville, where the Warrens are deeply disturbed by supernatural forces and decide to take some time off. But they're soon summoned to England to help a family being terrorised by a nasty spirit. Arriving in Enfield, North London, they meet Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor), a plucky single mother of four, who is worried that the ghost of an angry old man is threatening her 11-year-old daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe). Now staying with neighbours (Simon Delaney and Maria Doyle Kennedy) across the street, Peggy has also called in two experts, a true believer (Simon McBurney) and a sceptic (Franka Potente), to work with the Warrens to clear this malevolent presence from the family home.

While the script inventively intermingles the facts of the case with a generous dose of movie fiction, Wan fills the screen with all kinds of creepy goings-on, including banging noises, levitating furniture and flickering TV screens. Additional standard scares include a nerve-jangling toy and a seriously scary nun (who's about to get her own spin-off film, like the creepy doll Annabelle from the first movie). Wan also uses manipulative movie trickery from moody music to grubby production design to prowling camerawork that constantly reveals something frightening in the deep shadows. What he never does is find a new way to scare the audience: we have seen all of these tricks before, but of course they still work.

Continue reading: The Conjuring 2 Review

The Conjuring Review


Good

Old-style filmmaking makes this movie scarier than other recent horror films, simply because director Wan (Saw/Insidious) takes the time to actually develop suspense. By not using cheap trickery, he continually sends chills up our spine. So it's a shame that the story isn't more original, merely pasting together every haunted house cliche imaginable into what's apparently based on real events, but is clearly fictionalised.

Real-life ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) investigated a series of hauntings, possessions and other supernatural events over their career. Their most famous case is Amityville, while this story has apparently only recently been released. It involves the Perron family, which experiences all kinds of strange phenomena when they move into a Rhode Island house in 1971. Carolyn (Taylor) starts having freaky nightmares accompanied by nasty bruising, while Roger (Livingston) struggles to cope with the odd behaviour of their five daughters (Caswell, McFarland, King, Foy and Deaver). As the Warrens determine that this is a case of demonic possession, things get even crazier.

The plot is set out as a fairly straightforward investigation, as the Warrens try to get proof of possession so they can call in a priest. Filmmaker Wan uses this to lure us into a false sense of security, quietly taking us through long scenes in which nothing much happens before gently turning the screws then shocking us with something intensely creepy. Some of this is rather obvious (like a nasty-looking doll or an evil-sounding music box), but it's such sure-handed filmmaking that it can't help but make us squirm in our seats.

Continue reading: The Conjuring Review

The Mechanic Review


OK
Remade from Michael Winner's 1972 thriller, this action movie can't be bothered to get as dark and edgy as it should be. But the cast members keep us watching, even as things turn unnecessarily grisly.

Elite hitman Arthur (Statham) lives a solitary life in a New Orleans bayou with his stinking wealth and exquisite taste. But he's shocked when his boss (Goldwyn) gives him his next assignment: to kill his mentor Harry (Sutherland).

Arthur is a cool professional, but now he's also wracked with guilt. So he takes Harry's wastrel son Steve (Foster) under his wing, teaching him the assassination trade and letting him practice during a few jobs. But the work gets increasingly dangerous, and soon it becomes apparent that Harry was set up. Revenge is in the air.

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The Crazies Review


Very Good
As far as unnecessary remakes go, this revamp of the 1973 George A Romero B-movie thriller is actually pretty good fun, thanks to sharp direction, a strong cast and some extremely unnerving touches.

In a small Iowa farming community, Sheriff David (Olyphant) and his pregnant wife Dr Judy (Mitchell) are perplexed by the odd behaviour of the townsfolk, who begin losing their minds and acting out violently against each other. Then David and his deputy (Anderson) discover a mysterious crashed plane nearby, followed by an invasion of government containment officials who round up the residents and separate them into groups of infected and healthy. But something's still not right, and the craziness only escalates.

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At First Sight Review


OK
Val Kilmer regains his sight, goes crazy, and loves up Mira Sorvino in this largely maligned rendition of Flowers for Algernon. Sheesh... the least they coulda done was throw in a little gratuitous nudity... ya know, blind guy's gotta see with his hands and all.

Home Of The Brave Review


Weak
Irwin Winkler's Home of the Brave is notable for being the first major narrative, non-documentary film about the Iraq War and, more specifically, veterans of that war adjusting to life back home afterward. Unfortunately, that's about all it will be notable for. A politically timid and artistically confused misfire right from the start, the film is an argument for the rule that filmmakers often need years of distance from a big historic event before they are able to make something out of it. Home of the Brave won't exactly come to be known as this war's version of The Green Berets, it will most likely be forgotten, good intentions or no.

A strictly by-the-book opening segment places the film in a firebase in Iraq run by a unit of National Guardsmen. A batch of them are rounded up to guard a medical convoy going out on a humanitarian mission into a nearby town. It's painfully clear from the start that an ambush is coming (for one, the unit just found out they're demobilizing back to the States in a couple of weeks) and everything prior to that is stilted Audience-Character Identification 101. The firefight itself is as clumsily handled as just about everything else in the film, leavening the generally poor choreography with some shockingly moronic actions on the part of the Guardsmen, many of whom act as though they'd never been trained for combat.

Continue reading: Home Of The Brave Review

De-Lovely Review


Very Good
In a darkened room an elderly man sits at a piano. He's barely outlined by light from a window, his face obscured in shadow. Then, a light fades up, spotlighting him, followed by light everywhere. Thus starts De-Lovely and its style of self-aware artificiality. It purports to be the life of composer Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) but there's little more here than a grand retrospective of his ingenious touch with a pop song and an attempt at scandalizing his personal, bisexual life.

Like a symphony that's incomplete because all the notes aren't available, what I didn't get out of this is a three-dimensional portrait of the subject. The show, structured as a dead or dying man's vision of his life played out like a movie and stage production, is loaded with talent and a detailed recreation of his period. The portrayal of the swank, rich life is as festive to behold as it is off-putting. The world in which Porter whirls and commands with assured, inevitable success is an alien one. Rather than feel a part of it, we are there to revel in the entertainment.

Continue reading: De-Lovely Review

Life As A House Review


Good
The good news for George, a middle-aged, washed up architect, is that an enormous life change has motivated him to connect with his horrible teenage son and build a house by the ocean. The bad news is that the change is terminal cancer. The good news for moviegoers is that Irwin Winkler's Life as a House is filled with sharp, solid acting, a decent, sometimes harsh, script, and a few surprises. The bad news is that anything worth seeing here lives within an uneven sap of a film, unable to break free from the traditional Hollywood devices.

But much of Life as a House is completely watchable. Mark Andrus's script (he's written As Good As It Gets and the underrated, rarely seen Late For Dinner) appears cookie-cutter: he gives us the lazy, lonely, eccentric nobody (Kevin Kline); his estranged family, including beautiful ex-wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) and alienated teen (Hayden Christensen); and his predictably uptight neighbors, pissed off that his ramshackle of a house has stood in their beautiful oceanside neighborhood for twenty years.

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The Net Review


Terrible
This just goes to show that not only can Sandra Bullock not act, she can't even pick decent projects. Sucked from the Hollywood buzzword list like a bottom-feeder looking for sludge, The Net is trite idiocy that is socially irresponsible and irredeemable. I puked out loud.

I honestly can't believe a movie like this was made. Basically, it's the story of Angela Bennett (Bullock), a superstar computer hacker who runs across something she isn't supposed to, then finds her identity erased, her friends killed, and herself hunted down. Obviously a rush job to beat the other impending computer movies to the market, The Net is one plot hole after another, with technological impossibilities filling the space between.

Continue reading: The Net Review

Enough Review


Very Good
Agh... not another movie where a battered, defenseless chick learns to kick bad guy butt. How many times have audiences endured this sluggish story in the past ten years? But hey, just because it's been done before doesn't mean it can't work again. Michael Apted's "self defense isn't murder" thriller may reek of familiarity like yesterday's garbage, but the intense chemistry between the leading actors actually makes the film work.

Working class waitress Slim (Lopez) finds herself living a dream when she marries a loving, wealthy contractor named Mitch (Campbell). They settle into a flawless suburban life and eventually give birth to an adorable daughter, Gracie. Everything seems to be perfect for Slim.

Continue reading: Enough Review

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Rob Cowan Movies

The Conjuring 2 Movie Review

The Conjuring 2 Movie Review

Continuing on from the 2013 hit, this sequel blends fact and fiction to follow real-life...

The Conjuring Movie Review

The Conjuring Movie Review

Old-style filmmaking makes this movie scarier than other recent horror films, simply because director Wan...

The Mechanic Movie Review

The Mechanic Movie Review

Remade from Michael Winner's 1972 thriller, this action movie can't be bothered to get as...

The Crazies Movie Review

The Crazies Movie Review

As far as unnecessary remakes go, this revamp of the 1973 George A Romero B-movie...

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Home of the Brave Movie Review

Home of the Brave Movie Review

Irwin Winkler's Home of the Brave is notable for being the first major narrative, non-documentary...

De-Lovely Movie Review

De-Lovely Movie Review

In a darkened room an elderly man sits at a piano. He's barely outlined by...

Life as a House Movie Review

Life as a House Movie Review

The good news for George, a middle-aged, washed up architect, is that an enormous life...

The Net Movie Review

The Net Movie Review

This just goes to show that not only can Sandra Bullock not act, she can't...

Enough Movie Review

Enough Movie Review

Agh... not another movie where a battered, defenseless chick learns to kick bad guy butt....

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