MOVIE REVIEW: FURIOUS 7 (James Wan, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Furious 7:

1. So James Wan, the director of torture porn Saw, ventured into automobile porn and actually made a senseless albeit oftentimes fun and always frenetic action movie. His camera was on a perennial adrenaline rush.

2. Iggy Azalea showed up for 10 seconds and said one line and people considered this her film debut. If Judi Dench can win an Oscar for an 8-minute performance, maybe it’s time to bring out the For Your Consideration ads.

3. Whoever said that Jason Statham was walking testosterone could not be further from the truth. Several women probably went out pregnant after the screening.

4. These were my favorite “so bad they’re bad” lines that almost triggered an epileptic seizure due to my constant eye-rolling:

“I have nothing.”
“You got me.”
“I believe in you. I believe in us. That’s all that matters.”

And that final scene where Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) went on an “I remember everything…” aria in lieu of CPR made me fart through my nose.

5. To its credit, the movie promised a lot of explosions and car chases and unbelievable stunts and it delivered all of that and more. All those flying cars were worth the price of admission.

6. That blatant Corona Extra product placement just put My Big Bossing to shame.

7. Every other scene set to a banging hip hop soundtrack felt like an MTV music video. But again, who’s complaining?

8. If I were a billionaire, I would have golden dancers in my party as well. More kitsch, more fun.

9. We all know everyone gets out of a secured prison in time for the sequel. Just ask Magneto.

10. The CGI scenes with “Paul Walker” were a bit noticeable especially when the camera focused on his face. His lanky build was also obvious in the beach scene. The ending was a fitting tribute to him, though. The series just won’t be the same without him.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published April 8, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: THE CONJURING 2 (James Wan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Conjuring 2:

1. My love for horror films started during the Betamax (the videotape, not the blood gelatin) days. I think that with all the years of watching scary movies, I became desensitized to all imaginable frightening or shocking scenes, any jump scares, or just about everything that could startle a normal viewer. Sometimes I even just watched them to hear people scream their lungs out.

There have been quite a few recent good ones (e.g. Insidious) that made me double check the foot of my bed before going to sleep. The rest were just fun popcorn movies best enjoyed in a packed theater. This sequel fell in the latter category.

2. Director James Wan actually used the exact same template for this sequel that it felt like a retread of the original: a stand-alone opening story ripe for a spin-off (Annabelle in the first, Amityville here), the (re)introduction of the Warrens, a family of young kids (mostly female) with a strong maternal figure living in a haunted house and tormented by evil spirits, strong religious overtones, a demonic possession and a final climactic exorcism. In case it wasn’t obvious enough, he also brought back a spinning music box. Oh, and he borrowed the tent in The Sixth Sense (and most of the cliches in The Exorcist).

There was nothing wrong with sticking to a formula that worked (especially since he delivered on the promised scares), but one could still wish for a talented director like him to bring out something fresh to the old and tired horror genre.

3. I really liked how the camera moved to perfectly build up tension (swooping above and below characters, inside and outside rooms, around a central character, etc.) My favorite sequence (aside from that great transition from night to a rainy day) had to be the one where Janet (the talented Madison Wolfe) locked the door using a chair and it suddenly appeared next to her bed. The succeeding fake-outs (sister telling her nothing’s wrong, mother tearing up the Ouija board) and resulting scares (shaking bed, moving drawer) elicited the needed fear. It was perfectly capped off with the hilarious scene of the entire family running to a neighbor’s house.

4. For every genuine scare though (girl speaking in a different voice, old man’s reflection on the basement water), there were those that fell completely flat (the entire dog/Crooked Man sequence, the dragging Sister Marilyn Manson painting bit) or just plain bizarre (Patrick Wilson had a good voice but what was that Can’t Help Falling in Love sing-along?, also the I Started a Joke song was really off considering the building terror). If there was one song that upped the creepy factor, it was Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (this Christmas hymn will never sound the same way again).

5. Way too long especially for a horror flick. They could have easily chucked the entire Warrens plot and it would not have made a difference, but then again they would lose the needed star power (Wilson being the Kris Aquino of Hollywood horror). Also, that faux danger scene involving Ed Warren was exciting only if you never Googled his story after the first movie (he couldn’t die because he lived until the late 2000’s).

6. The scene where Janet tied her arms on the bed brought back a sad childhood memory. As a kid, I had severe asthma-related skin allergies and I usually woke up with huge scratch marks on my legs. To prevent this from happening while I was asleep, I used a blanket to tie my wrists on the bed posts (E.L. James, we need to talk). And then I learned about Caladryl and the rest was history.

7. I completely understood the old man’s fury whenever someone touched his remote. I always turned into that old man, especially when a favorite show was about to start and I still couldn’t find it. The only difference was that he wore dentures making less successful bite marks on his victims. My chunky front teeth could easily tear another person’s arm off.

Speaking of, was this the first movie where a ghost actually had pustiso? Even the great Lilia Cuntapay only had gums to show because she knew it would be scarier. Imagine her in a nun’s habit standing in the corner of your room. Now that would make a really scary movie.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THE CONJURING (James Wan, 2013)

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My notes on The Conjuring:

1. I had never played Hide and Clap and I probably never would. I still wasn’t sure why a mother would allow herself (or her kids) to be blindfolded and grasp their way around the second floor given that they could fall down the stairs and break their necks (at a minimum) any time during the game, but I learned that one should never teach parents how to raise their kids. Besides, I was a klutz even in Marco Polo so a simple game like this would end up with me flailing my hands frantically for an hour and my playmates dying of boredom (or suffocation) in a cramped closet. For the record, I jumped out of my seat when Lili Taylor lit that match and the ghost hands clapped, so the end still justified the means.

2. The movie overall felt a bit disjointed with three different stories: about a haunted doll (that spawned the horrendous Annabelle spin-off), about a family (of mostly young girls, gasp!) trapped in a haunted house, and about an exorcism. Each was strong on its own, but felt like fillers combined together. It was a shame because if it focused on the haunting of the old house alone, it would have been a great little chiller.

3. The demonologist couple (played by the Kris Aquino of Hollywood horror movies Patrick Wilson and the superb Vera Farmiga) said that demonic spirits don’t possess things, but humans. So what was with their room full of supposedly possessed items (Annabelle included)?

4. When the bruises suddenly showed up on the mother’s body, I remembered my fear as a kid of getting cancer. I think I got it from watching too many Lovingly Yours, Helen episodes where the first symptom of leukemia would be these huge unexplainable bruises on your arms and legs. I would always run to my mother crying about my future demise whenever I’d see one even if was a result of me bumping my body parts on every type of furniture (refer to klutz item on #1).

5. Grammar Nazi alert: Warren’s Home vs. Warrens’ Home.

6. There were several scenes that effectively scared the crap out of me: when one of the daughters was standing on the stairs in the middle of the night (no sound effect but it was really creepy), when somebody clapped from inside the closet, and when the camera focused on Linda Blair on top of the said closet. I might have peed a little on that last one.

7. It was explained that the three stages of demonic possession were infestation, oppression, and the actual possession, but they could very well have been talking about the stages of my love life.

Rating: ★★★☆☆