Monday, October 31, 2016

Ouija Origin of Evil: A Shocking Prequel To A Once Dreadful Franchise

Let me preface this review by stating that there is no reason I should've seen this film. I really enjoy horror movies, especially in the theater. When you get the right theater (as in people who shut the hell up and don't giggle or yell incessantly as a defense mechanism because they're not secure enough to just let themselves get scared) a good horror movie in theaters can be a terrifying experience. However, with the wrong film, it can feel like a total waste of time and money. Again, Ouija Origin of Evil was never on my radar of films to see. Mostly because the first movie looked like complete and utter garbage. This theory is, of course, confirmed by its abysmal 7% on rottentomatoes. I caught maybe... maybe... five minutes of it on HBO and thus substantiated my previous claim that the movie, for all intents and purposes, was a complete, lazy failure. However, its sequel... again, a movie I should not have even thought about seeing... had me curious based on two main factors. One, the director. Mike Flanagan hasn't exactly cemented his name in the horror spectrum, but he has turned in some fairly decent movies. Oculus was almost a good movie. It was definitely tense and creepy a good 3/4ths of the way through until its completely botched conclusion. And Hush, a movie I recommend on Netflix, again, was mostly a good movie-- with a great premise. And two, the outrageously shocking 82% rating on rottentomatoes. I don't usually put all of my stock in seeing a movie based on its RT score, but if a film scores 80% or higher or 20% or lower... generally the masses are correct.  But, a jump from 7% to 82%, I'm pretty sure, is unprecedented.  I couldn't just ignore this factor.  Ouija Origin of Evil, to put this into perspective, scored higher than The Magnificent Seven, The Secret Life of Pets, Snowden, Ghostbusters, Suicide Squad and The Accountant, to name a few. Those two factors led to me watching a very serviceable film with plenty of jumps, chills and thrills.

So, all I know about this film in relation to the original is that it is a prequel (figured this one out due to the 'origin' in the title). The movie centers around Alice, a recent widow, and crystal-ball psychic, and her two daughters Lina and Doris in 1965. Alice conducts psychic readings out of her home in order for people to contact loved ones on the other side. Her readings are, of course, faked, but used in a very healing way. She's not out to swindle folks for money, she's there to provide closure for people who haven't entirely been able to handle the grieving process. This is emphasized by the fact that Alice, herself, hasn't been able to handle the recent death of her husband. When the new "game", a Ouija Board, is introduced the public sphere, her eldest suggests that she incorporate it into the readings to add a further level or realism to the con. When her youngest, Doris, plays with the Ouija board it appears she actually has the gift of communication with the other side. She connects with her father, Alice's husband, and reveals intimate details about their lives together, proving that she can, indeed, contact the beyond.  However, sinister forces are at work, slowly taking over Alice's body, possessing her, and forcing her to perform very demonic acts on the people around her.

The film works because of its writing and cast. Flanagan constructs a very slowly built and creepy world around very honest and vulnerable characters. We feel for these people because they're not evil. Alice is honestly trying to help others. Lina, while obnoxious in her rebellious tendencies, is only acting out because she, too, cannot handle to loss of her father. And Doris is the inquisitive young girl who doesn't exactly comprehend what death even means. These characters are very relatable and easy to root for. So when Doris becomes possessed, we're invested. We want her to be able to break the curse. We want everyone to be all right at the end. And we are prepared to do whatever it takes and go through whatever we have to in order to see this through to the finish. Also, we're ready to get the hell scared out of us. And there are great moments of intensity and terror. For all of the faults the movie has, it doesn't go out of its way to provide cheap scares. Yes, there are some jump scares. But these surround moments of true terror weaving through moments of levity and humor.

PG-13 horror movies have a stigma attached to them that they're cheap, lazy, horror movies that provide no real scares and there is some truth to that.  In general, most of the horror movies that fail both story-wise and box office-wise are PG-13 horror movies. But, when done right, can really be better than any R rated horror movie.  In an R rated movie, blood and guts can be used as a crutch instead of honestly trying to freak someone out. In PG-13, the film is limited in its blood and relies on actual scares to get an audience to jump out of their seat. Director Mike Flanagan, for the most part, succeeds in his endeavor of making a genuinely good movie out of a franchise that already started off as a rancid pile of sewage water. He breathed new life into the movie by doing the simple task of making his characters real. They aren't stereotyped.  They're not lazily written around cheap jump scares that sacrifice good build-up for a synthetic gasp. And he holds nothing back. The more we feel for these characters the more Flanagan knows this and decides to put us through the ringer. It actually winds up being a pretty messed up movie... but in a good way.

The movie isn't entirely there, though. Flanagan has the ability to become a horror staple, but his work, while more advanced that most horror directors today, is still a ways off of become a Wes Craven or a James Wan or a Shyamalan (in his prime). There are still brief moments of bad CGI or a few silly moments that provide an unintentional laugh instead of a reaction of fright. But, he's getting closer.  With every entry into the horror genre, he's getting closer to being the guy with a reliable name who can use it to put asses in seats. Today is Halloween and it's been a good long while since there was a genuinely good horror movie to see on Halloween night that won't disappoint. For all of its flaws, there is still a lot working for Ouija Origin of Evil. 2016 might not be a very good year for movies in general, but the horror game, for the most part, has been pretty on point.

**Side Note: there is a scene after the credits. Apparently it makes sense if you've seen the first movie.  I haven't so I didn't get it.  I've decided I'm okay with that. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Girl on the Train: It's No Gone Girl

I find myself on entertainment news sites quite frequently.  IMDB is one of the first apps I look at on my phone regularly. I'm very aware of movies being greenlit and produced and release dates and books coming out and music on the rise... I keep track of it all.  For some reason, and I can't explain how, The Girl on the Train escaped all of my radars. I'm talking I had never heard of the book that apparently "shocked the entire world". I didn't know there was an adaptation of said book being filmed.  I didn't know any of this existed until I saw the first trailer. So, having no prior knowledge and learning that The Girl on the Train sold the most copies of any book in the shortest amount of time... made me think I might want to read it. It's always better to read the book BEFORE the movie rather than after because the book is better and you get to create these characters in your head before watching the movie when other people do that for you. The book was a quick, yet thrilling and addicting Gone Girl-esque read. I finished it over three sessions. Afterwards, I was very intrigued to see the film. However, just like most cases, the film is not as good as the book. And it's not as good as Gone Girl. It just kind of... is.

Emily Blunt plays Rachel, a broken, alcoholic who takes the train to and from New York City every day pretending to have a job. She watches a couple every day out the window of the train and creates this fantasy of them as the perfect couple (Haley Bennett & Luke Evans). They live a few houses down from where Rachel used to live with her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux).  He has since left Rachel, married Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and had a baby with her. Rachel traverses the tracks daily sipping vodka from her water bottle and making the worst decisions anyone like her can make.  She calls Tom constantly, sends drunk videos to Anna, visits their house shit-faced, and once even broke in to hold the baby.  She's a real mess.  On Friday, Rachel is passing the house of her favorite couple and spots Megan, one half of the "perfect" two, kissing a different man.  This sends Rachel on a downward drinking spiral because it perfectly echoes her own husband's betrayal. She blacks out, wakes up with scratches and bruises, covered in blood, with no memory of the night's events, and learns that Megan is missing. The rest of the movie is the intertwining lives of Rachel trying to remember the night, Anna trying to keep Rachel away, and the actual story of who Megan is living with her "perfect" husband Scott.

The book was written in subsections of three different points of view. We were given the perspectives of Rachel, Megan, and Anna. This is how the chapters were split. The reason this works is that each narrator provides the audience with a different perspective on an event.  However, these are three of the most unreliable narrators known to man.  The way that Gone Girl got its rocks off on basically telling the first half of the story, only to find out the narrator was lying the entire time and everything you accepted to be true was a big, fat hoax. This is that kind of fun.  Every reveal in the book comes from someone else calling another person out on a hole in their story. There are so many reveals on tiny little lies that the twists keep coming fast and furious. The problem with doing this in a movie is that we don't really have three narrators and instead of the characters providing the false-happenings, it's the camera that has to do the lying.  This makes the reveals feel almost cheap in a way. Not all of the reveals feel this way, but a lot of them do.

The movie itself isn't bad, it's just probably not what you're expecting it to be if you haven't read the book. It's not a heart-racing, fast-paced, thriller that keeps your blood pumping throughout. It's actually more like a Lifetime movie with much better actors.  In fact, the story comes off so melodramatic within the movie, if you replaced everyone in the cast with C-list actors, it would fit right in on Lifetime. Everyone is lying to everyone and betraying everyone, but not in a creepy, tense way.  It's more like an over-dramatic soap opera way... which isn't the way that it came off, at least to me, in the book.

If you DID read the book, then be prepared for some serious liberties taken on behalf of the writer and director. There are a lot of changes in the movie.  Some of them don't change the story that much and a few of them even improve upon the book. But, a lot of them urked me in a few places. There is a scene with Rachel when she's captured by someone and locked in a room, fearing for her life. This scene gave the reader, in the book, a thrill as you're wondering if this person is the one who had something to do with Megan's disappearance.  You're trying to piece this person to the clues in your head.  In the movie, it's downplayed significantly.  This person gets a little upset and throws a beer bottle at a wall.  That's it. Then, there's the actual "oh shit" moment reveal... which in the book is a literal out-loud "oh shit" moment. The moment in the movie replaces the good "oh shit" moment for a different one revealed by a character played by Lisa Kudrow (whose character isn't even in the book).  It's this moment the audience realizes whodunnit in kind of an anti-climactic sort of way.  Following this scene is the actual "oh shit" scene from the book and even that felt like it could've been played a lot bigger for the audience who has been jerked around the entire movie trying to solve the mystery.

I felt like, for the most part, the acting was solid. Emily Blunt nails the character of Rachel.  You're used to loving Blunt's tough roles and watching her own the screen.  This character is the opposite of what we're used to.  She's the literal definition of a mess. She makes the wrong decisions in nearly every scene and you cringe every time she does something worse. It's a fantastic performance. Theroux and Ferguson are very good as well serving as Rachel's ex and his new wife, Anna. Anna is a complete shrew that takes the cake for bitchiest character, but it's hard to know if she's actually like this because the only perspectives we get are hers and Rachels... and they hate the shit out of each other. Haley Bennett does a solid job as Megan, too. She plays the new 'trophy wife' with such fake happiness and disdain behind her eyes that her motivations in the film are really the only ones that the audience can truly understand... and she's a nut too.  The only one who I didn't care for was Luke Evans.  He's a hollow actor that brought zero life the role of Scott. I don't recall having seen him in anything else, but he was the weakest link in this tale.

I'm not entirely if the movie is that exciting to those who haven't read the book.  There are a scenes that make very little sense because the explanations for the actions aren't in the movie, but in the book. Then again, it could be some pretentious reader in me just thinking I'm above everyone because I actually read every now and then.  Who knows.  But, it's not Gone Girl.  The book very much had the essence of Gone Girl, but the movie does not.  It sort of trudges along, holding on by the grasp of the quality of the acting and really not the quality of the filmmaking. It's pulpy, it tries to be a bit erotic (very awkwardly), and it's a mystery that you'll probably figure out... but it's entertaining. I'll give it that.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Upcoming Best and Worst of Fall 2016

Fall movies are supposed to be a combination of Summer run-off, Halloween horror movies, and a bunch of Oscar bait. While October is never supposed to be that great, it's November and December that are the most exciting months of the year for film.

This is definitely not the case for 2016.  Hollywood has shat the proverbial bed when it comes to Oscar season films. Even non-Oscar bait films aren't that exciting.  There really isn't THAT much to look forward to in the upcoming months, but here's a few of the upcoming best and worst.


The Birth of a Nation

Nate Parker's directorial debut was almost a lock for, at the very least, a Best Picture nod when reviews from different film festivals weren't just good-- but praising to a degree fitting a film worthy of Best Picture.  However, amid past rape allegations and Parker not handling it in a way that the public is liking-- it's probably going to miss out on the Oscars and half of the viewers it would've had. This isn't to say that the film isn't still going to be powerful, moving, appropriate for today, and beautiful.

The Accountant

Ben Affleck is back in his low-key The Town-esque type of thriller that got Affleck back in good with the public.  This film is also probably not going to make a ton of money considering that it's been pretty quietly advertised and it's not a shoot-em-up action extravaganza.  It's going to be a slow burn of very deliberate and purposeful filmmaking that will slip through the cracks and become memorable.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

I'll admit... it took me nearly two years to watch the first Jack Reacher film.  It didn't excite me and it didn't look like anything that was worth watching.  It especially didn't look like a film that needed a sequel.  However, after watching it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tom Cruise can still lock it down as leading man in an espionage thriller and even though we all know that sequels never match the quality of the originals, it is a solid character that has the ability to have many fun adventures.  And... in a year full of ballz... I'll give this one the benefit of the doubt.

Doctor Strange

BLEH. YAWN. I'm literally only putting this up here for you readers because I couldn't give two shits about this movie. I'm OVER Marvel. Over it. Yet, they keep making quality films.  How can I slander a Marvel film (that look goofy as hell to me) starring Benedict Cumberbatch?  I'm going to be apathetic towards this movie until I see it get a 92% on Rottentomatoes (lower only if it is actually as racially insensitive as it looks) and I'll see it and probably enjoy it, never to watch again.

Hacksaw Ridge

Say what you will about my boy Mel Gibson.  He's a loathsome human being.  This is true.  He doesn't deserve the love that people still give him given the fact that offscreen he's a garbage bag.  However, the dude knows how to make a movie.  His track record as a writer/director is damn near flawless.  And the story of Hacksaw Ridge is highly touted as being a tear jerker war movie that the vast majority of the public will eventually NEED to see.  Whatever it is-- it's going to be one of the best of the Fall.


You wanna talk tear-jerker? This is the one that's going to drain you of tears and use them to mop the theater. It's the story of an interracial couple in the south in the 50s who get married and then spend their entire lives separated, under scrutiny of the law, sent to prison, etc.  With this and The Birth of a Nation, there could not be two more important movies to come out this year.


There are two types of Sci-Fi.  There are junky, fun, action science fiction movies that can be so bad they're good or so good they're good.  Then, there's the slow, clever, and inventive sci-fi that is more of a brain tug than a space romp.  Arrival falls in the latter category.  It takes almost a philosophical look at what it means to be an alien in our world. It looks very thrilling, very intense, and very good.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I legitimately know nothing about this movie.  I know that it was written by the chick that wrote Harry Potter and that the book is mentioned in those books and I know some of the cast.  Other than that, I know nothing.  However, I know the track record of Rowling and the movies based on her books and I can just assume that this movie is going to be quite enjoyable.

The Edge of Seventeen

It does kind of look like your standard angsty teen coming of age movie.  However, it's produced by James L. Brooks and that's pretty much his M.O. but he's very good at it.  It also has an exceptional cast and it doesn't provide the standard PG-13 fare these types of movies are used to.  It's R rated and Woody Harrelson is playing a smartass. Yeah, okay, I'm in.

Nocturnal Animals

This is the kind of weird movie that feels like a dark Coen Bros. film.  It has that No Country for Old Men feel to it with a great cast. Director Tom Ford has only directed one other film, A Single Man, which was terrific, so I guess we can give him a so-far-so-good attitude. Hopefully it's even more sick and twisted than it looks because not much else the rest of this year are going to really strain the brain.


Again, don't know a whole hell of a lot about this movie, either. But I do know that it's Disney and their recent films the last five or six years have been stand out hits (I feel like I'm basing most of my assumptions upon track record).  It's also a new Disney musical from the guy who directed The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.  I also know that Lin-Manuel Miranda is involved with the movie somehow.  And The Rock is legit the man.  So, yeah... it's going to be good.


The teaser trailer for Allied doesn't show much, but this will be Brad Pitt's third World War II film in the last five or so years and none of them have been terrible.  Robert Zemeckis leaving his world of animation is also a good sign.  If you combine the right parts of Pitt, Cotillard and Zemeckis... there is potential for a very good movie on the horizon.

La La Land

Hollywood isn't doing a very good job of showcasing their holiday/Oscar bait movies this late into the year.  The last few movies I've said is going to be on the Best list only really have vague teaser trailers.  The same goes for La La Land.  I've seen the trailer a few times... but I have no idea what it's about.  I have to go (yet again) on track record.  The director is the guy who made the HIGHLY underrated Whiplash (one of my favorite movies of this decade) and it reunites Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.  Cool.  I'll see it.

Office Christmas Party

I had to put a comedy on here because the rest of the comedies this holiday season look like sewage slop.  This one was good enough to choose due to its good cast (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, T.J. Miller) and it's directed by the guys who did Blades of Glory.  So, even if it's just okay... it wins the winter movie fest.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Much like Doctor Strange, I am just not excited for this film.  The trailer makes it look quite humorless, a little cheesy, and just kind of bleh.  The fact that after test-screenings it needed extensive reshoots says to me that it's sub-par.  And its director, Gareth Edwards, directed the abysmal reboot of Godzilla... I'm just not sold.  However, we are in a day and age when movies like this, when resurrected... can every once in awhile find lightning in a bottle. Cliche, cliche... it could be good.  Or maybe that's just wishful thinking?


This is another movie where the trailer doesn't exactly sell me, but in this case I can tell that there is something else within the film that isn't being spoiled by the trailer (THANK YOU). It's also one of the only ORIGINAL PIECES of the entire year.  It's not based on a book or a comic book or a graphic novel or any other source material... it is 100% original.  The fact that a big studio would risk money on an original movie in 2016 is a goddamn miracle and makes me very hopeful for this film.

A Monster Calls


I thought about throwing this one into the 'Wildcard' section because the adaptation may or may not actually be as good as the trailer looks.  However, based on the cast and the trailer and what I've heard about the quality of the book... I'm willing to bet this movie is a lot better than people are initially giving it credit. Plus... Liam Neeson is the voice of a giant monster that helps a kid cope with his mom's cancer death.  What's not to be excited about???


Martin Scorsese made another film.  It stars Liam Neeson.  It's over three hours long.  Yeah... it's going to be amazing.



Probably the movie I'm most excited about this winter. Denzel's second directorial effort and it looks like it's going to have all of the emotional pull to make the audience actually FEEL things. It's based on a Pulitzer-Prize winning play that Denzel did on Broadway, so he probably feels quite passionate about its content.  I don't care.  It's Denzel. I'll watch him in pretty much anything. 


Ouija: Origin of Evil

The original Ouija was terrible.  I love me some horror, but even I wouldn't touch that.  The sequel does look like it has a better premise and it definitely has a better director, but there's no saving this franchise. There's no amount of good directing or writing that could save a movie that's titled after a board game.

Boo! A Madea Halloween

Please explain to me how in the hell we get rid of Tyler Perry?  Is there some sort of online petition I can sign?  Are any of the Presidential candidates proposing some sort of anti-Tyler Perry legislation?? Because they'll get my vote.  And yes... your eyes are not deceiving you... it does in fact say "Hellurween" on an actual movie poster for an actual movie.  There is no God.


I almost put this one under 'Upcoming Wildcards', but the more I see the trailer for this movie the more it looks worse and worse.  The DaVinci Code was not a good movie and Angels and Demons was just okay.  But this one looks so bad that every line of dialogue in the trailer (something that is supposed to convince you to see the movie) is so on the nose that the only reason Hanks is doing a third one has to be that he's contractually obligated.  I don't have any faith in this third installment to a very mediocre (at best) series.



Does this one need much explanation? I realize we struck gold with The Lego Movie. Do you honestly think it'll happen again?

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

I hope you like quesadillas because this movie is stuffed with CHEESE. That was a terrible joke... but still ten times more entertaining than this incredibly emotionally manipulative movie. This is the film equivalent of the song "Christmas Shoes".  I don't prejudice films very often, but if this movie got a 98% on rottentomatoes, I would still never see it.  Dear God... why Steve Martin? Why???

Almost Christmas


A dysfunctional family Christmas movie comes out every. single. year. Does anyone actually remember one that stands out that was good other than, like, Christmas Vacation?  They all fall into the mist of obscurity and are hardly ever watched again. This one doesn't look any different than the rest.  A standard movie with a laugh or two that will impact no one.

Bad Santa 2

This one hurts. A lot. I love the original movie.  I watch it every Christmas.  It's so dark and funny and just plain ol' fuckkkkkked up. It's a classic that NEVER needed a sequel.  Go watch the trailer for this movie.  I dare you to find one thing to laugh it. You can't.  Sometimes you can tell that they're hiding the good stuff for the actual movie... this one... the "good stuff" is in the trailer.  This movie will be horrible.  It will attempt to make you forget why you loved the original so much.  And poor Kathy Bates.  It hurts me to see her drug into this mess.


Since winning her Oscar for Monster's Ball, Halle Berry has gone the Cuba Gooding Jr. route where instead of taking better and better roles, she's lived on the bottom making terrible movie after terrible movie and eventually will become nothing more than the face of a Redbox poster.  Not sure how Kidnap escaped to theaters in December, but it will likely be the last one.

The Bye Bye Man

Hey, what's up, America? Saw The Babadook?  Decided it was too good of a movie to not be American? Decided to make a blatant ripoff without really even trying to disguise the fact that you're ripping it off?  Trying to see how STUPID of a name you could call the ghost/demon of a movie and people will still come out? I hate this movie.  I hate it more than Tyler Perry.

The Space Between Us


You see... it's a play on words.  He's a kid that was born in space and falls in love with a girl on Earth the space between them is actually space.  Then when he comes to Earth they can't be together or some shit and now there's literal distance (space) between them.  Or how because he was born in space and she was born on Earth... they're different people and the culture clash is the metaphorical space between them.  Go to hell.

Assassin's Creed

Film adaptations of video games always suck.  They always do.  Remember when we argued earlier this year about Warcraft? How it wasn't going to be the bust that I said it was going to be? Well... it was. And this will be too.  It's unfortunate that they got real actors (Fassbender, Marion Cotillard) to be in the movie because it's going to suck.  If you don't believe me, watch the trailer. If you still don't believe me, hit yourself as hard as you can in the face with a hammer.


The Girl on the Train

Before a few days ago, I would've stuck this one in the 'Upcoming Best' for Fall, but due to middling reviews, I've moved to 'Wildcards'.  Having read the book I can say that it is a very intense and thrilling story that could and should be great as a movie.  However, in the wrong incapable hands... it could just be a forgettable Gone Girl ripoff.  I'm hoping not.

Keeping Up With The Jonses

This is another movie that comes out every few years.  Suburban family watches cool new family (who may be spies), become jealous and snoopy, then entangled in the web of espionage.  The problem is-- they're never any good.  None of these movies ever really have the balls to go all out.  It's never enough comedy to justify the lame action, and it's never enough action to justify never laughing.  I don't have faith that Zack Galifinakis is the one to do it right. But you never know.

Collateral Beauty

Will Smith is someone that we all want to make a triumphant return to the movies.  However, he's been Kiera Knightley-ing himself and instead of doing fun Summer blockbusters (which is where we fell in love with him), he's trying to win that Oscar with movies no one cares about. Collateral Beauty is either going to be The Pursuit of Happiness.... or Seven Pounds.  Either way... meh.

Patriots Day

Peter Berg and Mark Whalberg team up for their third movie about 'Merica.  First, it was Lone SurvivorThen, it was Deepwater Horizon.  Now, it's the "true" story of the aftermath of the Boston bombing.  I can't help thinking that instead of trying to honor the heroes in each of these stories, they're spewing very strange 'Merica propaganda. However, the movies are actually good.  So... I don't know. Vote Trump.

Why Him?

This is the only comedy coming out on Christmas.  It does have a few upsides-- we all know and love Bryan Cranston.  And it's rated R.  Like, a hard R. But, his foil is James Franco.  We've seen Franco funny in Seth Rogen movies... but is he funny enough alone to carry a movie as the off-color character himself? If he's supposed to be the funny one, and Cranston is the straight man... I don't know if they'll actually be able to pull it off without Rogen and co.


This is the third movie McConaughey has done with the word 'Gold' in it. The other ones weren't good.  There was also a movie he did called Sahara.  It wasn't good either.  He's bald in this movie.  Not sure if that helps.  I have no idea if this will be good or not. Wildcard, bitches!

See what I mean? Like what exactly is there to be that excited for this year?  I really hope that there's a movie that hasn't been announced yet that sneaks through and reminds us that the Fall really is meant for the best movies of the year.  I guess we'll have to wait until 2017 to get a better year.