Rob Cowan

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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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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.

Continue reading: Life As A House 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...

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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...

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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