Tag Archives: james wan

‘The Nun’ is Just Another Bland ‘Conjuring’ Spin-Off

And I thought the DC Extended Universe had problems…

“The Nun” is the fifth installment of the “Conjuring Universe” and a prequel to 2016’s “The Conjuring 2.” It follows a Catholic priest (Demián Bichir) and a young novitiate (Taissa Farmiga) who uncover an unholy secret in a Romanian monastery in 1952. Corin Hardy directs while “Conjuring” creator James Wan produces.

I have never really been a fan of the “Conjuring” series. I think the first film is very competently made and has some tense sequences but just isn’t that scary, which is a bit of a crutch for a scary movie. All the subsequent films, especially the two “Annabelle” installments, are laughable (for the wrong reasons) and just plain boring. This film has better performances and more engaging set pieces than those films (a gothic castle screams “ghost story” more than a farm) but a dumb characters and a boring narrative make this just another bland film with a few bumps in the night.

Like I said, the film is set in the Cârța Monastery in Romania, offers a few creepy settings and an unsettling atmosphere. However as director, Hardy does little to explore any real possibilities or play with the world he sets up short of the expected. He doesn’t trust his audience, so any shadow is highlighted and every figure held in the frame. One of the things good horror films, including many by James Wan, do is have creepy images in the background but don’t emphasize them; this makes your brain paranoid if it caught something or not and then you start looking around nervously in every wide shot.

Performance-wise, both Demián Bichir and Taissa Farmiga (younger sister of “Conjuring” star Vera Farmiga, although I don’t believe their characters share relation) turn in solid work. You can sense their dedication to the faith and they (usually) are able to sell a lot of the laughable dialogue. However, their characters are so unbelievably stupid, walking towards creepy shadows in the middle of the night and not being creeped out or confused by figures suddenly disappearing, it makes you distracted more by that then admiring their work.

The first half of this film is a pretty boring investigation, even though we have seen that priests looking into possible possessions can be very interesting when done right. The second half is a nonsensical CGI monster movie, with the titular Nun running around screaming and jumping, plus a few other incoherent and stupid special effects.

Look, these films are clearly not my cup of tea. I like my films to have relatable characters, engaging plots and smooth pacing, but some people get enough out of jump scares and demons in creepy Halloween masks, and if those two things are enough for you then “The Nun” should be fun enough (the person I saw this with said parts were almost too creepy, so maybe I’m just too brave). But being this far out from the end of October, I don’t think this is entertaining enough for even a “fun night out” at the movies.

Critic’s Grade: C–

Warner Bros.

‘Furious 7’ More Over-the-Top Fun

Furious_7_posterAnd with this, the summer movie season has unofficially started.

“Furious 7” is the, well, seventh film in the Fast & Furious franchise. This time around Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and company must take on a vengeful Jason Statham. James Wan takes over the director’s chair.

Seven films in, you probably know if you are a fan of the Fast & Furious films. If you’re willing to overlook the fact that they take place in a world lacking the laws of physics and are ripe with painful dialogue, then the films are a lot of fun. If you like your films with a shred of intelligence, then you need not apply. And “Furious 7” makes no effort to break free from the franchise’s formula.

“Furious 7” is the type of movie Michael Bay has spent his entire career trying to make: filled with shots of scantily clad women, fast cars, and clever one liners. Only difference is when the Fast & Furious films do it, the shots don’t come off as creepy, the cars aren’t moving product placements, and the one liners aren’t racist.

For most of “Furious 7”, I was having a blast. I got to see Jason Statham, one of the biggest action stars on the planet, get into a fist fight with The Rock, and then watch cars drive out of an airplane and parachute onto the ground. It is stupid and impossible and I loved near every minute of it.

Despite having made his name in horror with films like “The Conjuring”, Wan has a solid hand filming the action scenes. He may like to spin the camera around a bit too much, but for the most part he gives us some creative and engaging shots, and directs some moments of true tension, like when Walker is running up the side of a bus that is falling off of a cliff.

Speaking of Walker, it is impossible not to think of him for nearly the entire film. After his untimely passing back in November 2013, it put the film in delay as it was rewritten and his brothers stood in to finish filming his scenes. For the most part it is seamless, minus one or two shots of clear stock footage, and there was a touching tribute to Walker in the credits. He is the most charismatic and relatable character of the series and it is a true shame to see him go; but luckily Walker’s final film gives him a potent goodbye.

The biggest flaw “Furious 7” has is the same thing that hindered “Fast Five” and “Fast & Furious 6”: an overlong, numbing finale. When the climax arrives, it goes on for what feels like half an hour, with continuous explosions and destruction for the sake of explosions and destruction. It doesn’t ruin the film, but it makes it near overstaying its welcome.

Hopefully “Furious 7” is the final film of the franchise, both because it is a proper sendoff to Walker and the series would quit while it’s ahead. Like I’ve said through the entire review, the film is loud and doesn’t even attempt to be realistic, the writing is oh my god and the plot is predictable as anything; but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a blast watching it all go down.

Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Annabelle’ Boring, Lazy and Unscary

Annabelle-posterThere’s a trend I’ve noticed with Hollywood in 2014: if a title of a film is simply a female name, then the end product is trash. First we had “Tammy”, then “Lucy” and now “Annabelle”.

A prequel/spin-off/rip-off of “The Conjuring”, “Annabelle” tells the tale of how the creepy little doll became possessed in the first place, and how it torments the lives of a married couple and their newborn baby. The couple is played by Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis (crazy first name, right?!) and the film is directed by John R. Leonetti.

I wasn’t the biggest “Conjuring” fan. I appreciated its production value and acting but I just didn’t find the film very scary. And like I said in my review, a horror film that isn’t scary is like a comedy without any laughs; it failed at its objective. That being said, if “Annabelle” was intended to be a horror film, then it botched even harder than “Conjuring” ever could have hoped to.

Nothing in this film works. Let’s start with the acting. It’s as wooden as the rocking chair that the Annabelle doll sits in the entire film. The actor’s deliveries are off and their emotions are non-existent. As my one friend brilliantly said to me, “you know you’re in trouble when the doll is the best actor in the movie.”

The script is just as awful as the acting. The plot makes no sense and puts no effort into explaining how Annabelle actually comes possessed, and it takes until the final scene to tell us why the demon is after the family. The dialogue is equally as dreadful. Like I’m perplexed as to how some of these scenes made it into the finished product. At one point the husband says “ha ha it’s true; everyone HATES her grandmother”. Like, in the most awkward tone possible. And nearly completely out of context to the conversation. That would mean the director had to have looked at that take and said, “Perfect! Cut. Print.”

Speaking of direction, Leonetti does nothing special here at all. All my issues with “Conjuring” aside, director James Wan (who produced “Annabelle”) knew how to build tension in a scene using practical effects (his mistake was never having much of the tension boil over and lead anywhere). Leonetti lingers on actors faces for too long and stares at a still Annabelle for extended durations. There were a couple interesting camera tricks he employs, such as showing a little girl running past an open door only to have her turn into a full-grown woman upon entering, but I think if you had simply put a camera on a tripod it would have done a more engaging job.

All of this could be forgiven if the film was scary, or even interesting, but “Annabelle” is neither. It is boring and uneventful, and by using all no-name actors to ensure the budget was as low as possible it’s not even like we have a big-name star to hold our hand (I would pay good money to see Nicolas Cage scream and throw the Annabelle doll).

I can go on and on bashing “Annabelle”, but then I would be just hurting my brain more than this film did by itself. It is a lazily constructed and awfully executed horror film that should be condemned alongside the demons that control its title character. The silver lining about nearing the end of this review is I will never have to revisit this film ever again. Well, except when I write my Year’s Worst Films list in December. Or until they milk yet another sequel out of this already dried up franchise and I have to relive it all over again…

Critics Rating: 3/10