Movie Review: Annabelle


Mia (Annabelle Wallis) hears something going bump in the night in “Annabelle”, the cash-grab prequel to “The Conjuring”

In honor of Halloween, I’m going to review Annabelle, which I finally got the chance to see in theaters.

For someone who thought The Conjuring was a breath of fresh air, I wanted the prequel to be as good. James Wan did a terrific job setting up a horror tale that had old-fashioned scares, an eerie atmosphere, and a story that looks realistic. When he introduced Annabelle, the creepy ventriloquist doll, I knew I was in for something frighteningly good. I wished for a spin-off on the doll.

The movie got made, and unfortunately, it gets everything wrong that The Conjuring got right.

John and Mia (Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis) are a happy couple living in Santa Monica. They are expecting their first child. John gives Mia a doll to fit in with the rest of her collection. One night, Mia wakes up and hear a scream from next door. After calling the police, their home gets invaded by two people who are part of a satanic cult. They summon an entity named Annabelle that starts to drive the family bonkers.

I have to admit that Annabelle has very few eerie sequences. Including one where Mia walks up the staircase to find drawings, which she assumed it was by some child. However, as she keeps walking up the stairs, she sees something frightening about them. They consist of her seeing her baby in the baby carriage getting run over by a garbage truck. It conjures up some effective foreshadowing. Other than that, it relies way too much on jump scares than the overall atmosphere. It gets annoying to the point of being funny.

I just want to ask: Why would someone leave a creepy doll in a room where the baby is going to sleep? What a disappointment on every level!


Movie Review: Fury


Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) and his crew are on a mission behind enemy lines in David Ayer’s WWII film “Fury”

World War II was one of, if not, the most brutal of all wars. There have been many depictions of the many horrifying and point-turning events on film. Steven Spielberg succeeded in making devastatingly powerful depictions of the Holocaust (Schindler’s List) and the Invasion of Normandy (Saving Private Ryan). Clint Eastwood made two films depicting the war on Iwo Jima from the perspectives from U.S. and Japanese troops (Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima). The new WWII film, Fury, David Ayer (writer of Training Day; director of End of Watch) and his team make a heart-wrenching film that not only depicts the horrors of war but showing the good and bad between the Allies and the Axis Powers.

Fury opens up with a prologue stating that it’s April 1945. The Allies have entered the European theatre in Nazi-Germany. Hitler becomes desperate and forces every man, woman, and child to join the military, while others suffer. Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is in command of a Sherman tank nicknamed “Fury” with his crew consisting of three other men after their assistant driver has been killed. Their names are: Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf; the only role along with Holes where he doesn’t suck), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña), and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal; The Walking Dead). They have been together since the North African Campaign (“I started the war killing Germans in Africa, and in France, and in Belgium. Now I’m killing Germans in Germany,” says “Wardaddy” at one point).

Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) comes in to replace their assistant tank driver. The only problem is that he has no battle experience. He becomes scared, and wants to go home. “Wardaddy” teaches him how to fight as they are on a deadly mission behind enemy lines.

Every single war is hell. Ayer does a brilliant job capturing the bleak reality of World War II with graphic scenes of carnage reminiscent to Saving Private Ryan, music by Steven Price (Gravity), and the sensational battle sequences with the sweeping cinematography surrounding them. A big plus for those scenes is that the camera moves very smoothly while we see the tanks getting damaged. On the other hand, when the soldiers shoot their weapons, the shots look like they are coming out of a Blaster from Star Wars. Ayer uses that odd technique to color code the bullets’ paths.

There are many religious imagery and themes scattered frequently throughout Fury. Boyd Swan is nicknamed “Bible” because he quotes the bible and says grace before a meal. There is also a scene where Wardaddy and Norman meet a German woman named Emma and her cousin. Norman takes Emma to bedroom to read her hand palms, and talks to her about the lines on her hand resembling the Ring of Solomon. He reads that she helps and understands people, and she will have someone true in her heart one day. This depicts the trustworthiness between the Allies and Axis Powers.

Pitt’s Wardaddy is far from Lt. Aldo Raine from Inglourious Basterds. He does happen to have a little bit of that essence in this movie, but he’s more emotionally evolved. He puts his past behind to fully embrace his role in the war. His tank is his home, and his crew are like family to him. He trusts them, and couldn’t do anything without them. He becomes a father figure to Norman to fully understand the means of being in the war. One of the ways to stay alive in the war is to keep fighting. This is one of the best performances of the year. I would be surprised if Brad Pitt didn’t get nominated for an Oscar. Leading the great cast, we have a harrowing yet powerful WWII film.


Movie Review: The Judge

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his father (Robert Duvall) try to work things out in David Dobkin's "The Judge"

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his father (Robert Duvall) try to work things out in David Dobkin’s “The Judge”

There is a scene in which the two Roberts have an argument in the car. They get out, and walk away from each other. The very next shot consists of a faraway show with the car sitting in the middle while the two are walking away. That scene is one of the most beautiful shots in the film, and also the most beautiful I’ve seen all year. Unfortunately for The Judge, the latest from director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers), the cinematography is one of the truly remarkable achievements. This movie is far from a true masterpiece.

The Judge stars Robert Downey, Jr. taking a break from playing the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist playing Hank Palmer, a successful Chicago lawyer who often defends guilty people (like Jim Carrey from Liar Liar). “Innocent people can’t afford me,” says Palmer when he was asked why he defends the guilty. He gets a call from his older brother Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio; Pvt. Pyle from Full Metal Jacket) that his mother passed away. He leaves for Carlinville, Indiana for the funeral.

Palmer gets rather an reluctant welcome. He is reunited with Glen, who used to be a great baseball player, Dale (Jeremy Strong), the autistic younger brother who likes to film things with his Super 8mm film camera, and his father Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall). One day, a cop talks to Hank concerning his father. He has been accused of a hit and run after he picked up groceries one night. They work very hard to clear his name trying to know the truth of the case.

Even though the film contains a lot of cliches, Dobkin does a solid job balancing the drama with comedy. He makes the audience feel like they are part of the courtroom; feeling the tension between the judge and everyone else invested in the case. Outside the courtroom, however, it’s a mixed a bag. There are good scenes, like the two Roberts are having a dialogue where they misunderstand each other for years (I was on the verge of tears).

On the other hand, there are scenes in which I didn’t care for at all. There is a subplot where Hank reunites with his high school sweetheart (Vera Farmiga) at a diner. I see a kid and a pet rock having much better chemistry than these two actors. Nonetheless, The Judge is a decent melodrama, but it’s far from original. I’ll recommend it for the performances by Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall and a gifted supporting cast, and the sensational cinematography.


Movie Review: Gone Girl

Ben Affleck addresses the crowd about his wife's disappearance in David Fincher's "Gone Girl"

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) addresses the crowd about his wife’s (Rosamund Pike) disappearance in David Fincher’s “Gone Girl”

David Fincher is one of Hollywood’s well-known directors. He has made some of the greatest movies of all-time, like Fight Club and The Social Network. His latest film, Gone Girl, is typical Fincher. His beautifully dark cinematography with hues reminiscent to a film noir and the haunting score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross set the manipulated mood very well. With Ben Affleck in front of the camera, he gives a brilliant glimpse of the nature and ambiguity of the news media. It gives audiences to discuss about for years to come.

Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) have been married for nearly five years. On the day of their fifth anniversary, Nick sees a coffee table smashed into a million pieces. He can’t seem to find Amy anywhere. His Missouri hometown is surrounded by police officers, news reporters, and neighbors. They keep asking the same question: Did Nick kill his wife?

He immediately becomes the prime suspect.

When a candlelight vigil takes place, Nick addresses the crowd regarding his wife’s disappearance. While the police looks for clues, Nick tries to get rid of his guilt throughout the investigation.

I always love a good mystery. I have rarely seen a lot where they would keep me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. For a 2-1/2 hour long movie, Gone Girl flew by like a breeze. It does such a phenomenal job at keeping the mystery under wraps (kudos to the marketing campaign). Once the audience settles into the theater, they would expect the unexpected. Words cannot describe how much I loved Gone Girl!

Ben Affleck gives the performance of his career as the suspect of his wife’s disappearance. He’s already becoming one of my favorite actors (even though I still can’t picture him as Batman). Rosamund Pike’s Amy is a force. Through flashbacks and narration, she remains an enigma to the characters, as well as the audience. This is one of the only occasions where Tyler Perry doesn’t suck (the other being his short role in 2009’s Star Trek). His portrayal of a lawyer gives enough wit to this otherwise dark mystery. He keeps his character as serious as the film’s tone. I’m surprised by Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s obsessive ex-boyfriend. David Fincher and his team give us a nail-biting thriller packed with a dark atmosphere, many twists and turns, dark humor, and it pays off with an emotional punch. He makes it look real, act real, and feel real. Easily one of the year’s absolute best.


Movie Review: The Equalizer

Denzel Washington goes back into full swing in Antoine Fuqua's "The Equalizer"

Denzel Washington gets revenge in Antoine Fuqua’s “The Equalizer”

There is no other actor, like Denzel Washington, who could make every movie good. He has played a war hero in Glory, a lawyer in Philadelphia, a high school football coach in Remember the Titans, a narcotics officer in Training Day (which got him an Oscar win), and a flight attendant who is dealing with his alcoholism and cocaine addiction in Flight. He’s like Hollywood’s superhero. If a movie is not that good, Denzel would come in and save the day. In The Equalizer (in which I saw last night), based on the 1980s television show, he brings enough power to make it watchable. However, it was only worth seeing once.

Washington plays Robert McCall, a guy living a quiet life in Boston. He works at a hardware store where he is appreciated by his co-workers, and lives in an apartment spending most of his time reading books. One night at a 24/7 diner, McCall meets a young hooker named Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz, paying tribute to Jodie Foster’s character in Taxi Driver). They have a conversation about Ernest Hemingway’s masterpiece The Old Man and the Sea. He tells her she can be what she wants to be in the future. They get along well until Teri gets beaten up by the Russian mafia. Since he promised himself to put his past behind him, McCall goes back into full swing as a black-ops commando for one reason and one reason only: Vengeance!

Director Antoine Fuqua brings a nifty style to his gritty direction. However, it doesn’t make The Equalizer that great of movie. It’s necessarily violent (particularly one scene where it’s like a grotesque version of Home Alone), but it’s far from original and the characters (including the villains) don’t bring that much depth at all.