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Review: ‘The Conjuring 2’ Has Ghosts Worth The Boasts

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Conjuring 2 MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]J[/dropcap]ames Wan returns to his world of hauntings with more inspiration than you’d expect for a sequel to 2013’s surprise hit The Conjuring. He has an eye for the setting of 1970s England with period dressing and a rustic motif. He has an uncanny sense of atmosphere the way he’s able to captivate the viewer with frightening new tricks in the horror genre.

The Conjuring 2 MovieSpoon.com

This is the normal amount of crosses to have on a wall–if your home is possessed.

It also helps that he has a stellar cast backing him up. Wan knows the type of movie he wants to make and doesn’t let himself become pinned down with trying to one-up his previous movie. That creepy Annabelle doll, though popular enough to warrant her own movie, is reduced to a mere cameo as Wan clearly has more ideas than just rehashing the same old thing.

The movie picks up with ghost hunters Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) continuing their investigations of the paranormal. Opening the picture is a prologue to reintroduce us to the ghost busting couple as they confirm the demonic intent of the Amityville Horror. Lorraine shows off her unique ability to make contact with spirits and witnesses the slew of shotgun murders that took place throughout the cursed house. While having these visions, she is also haunted by a demonic nun, which brings forth much foreshadowing of a grim future for the couple.

The Conjuring 2 MovieSpoon.com

I suppose a simple ‘go away’ won’t work?

Their primary mission for The Conjuring 2 takes place across the pond in Enfield, England, complete with UK stock footage of the 1970s and a soundtrack of “London Calling” to make the era and location clear as day. Single mother Peggy Hodgson has her hands full with too many kids and not enough money. Despite the multitude of issues her kids have, from speech impediments to smoking, Peggy still loves them enough to offer both praise and discipline.

Related: ‘The Conjuring 2’ Tops Week’s Revenue Charts With $40M

She’s a great mom, but doesn’t quite have the determination to punish the haunting spirit out of her possessed daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe). The poor schoolgirl has been taken over by the ghost of Bill Wilkens (Bob Adrian), an angry old spirit that speaks through Janet with his bitter voice. He gives her the possessed girl special with levitation, moving of beds, turning of crosses and bringing demonic figures to life in the house.

Okay, so it may not be the most original of horror pictures being another haunted house where kids are put in peril. It’s been done before in countless modern horror pictures, including Wan’s own Insidious series. And, admittedly, The Conjuring 2 doesn’t exactly trump the first movie by employing the same scenario. Thankfully, however, Wan still has the creative juices flowing to give this horror template a fresh coat of paint and offer up some surprising scares.

The Conjuring 2 MovieSpoon.com

Patrick Wilson tries to scare away the spirits in ‘The Conjuring 2.’

I was rather impressed at how the movie finds just the right pitch to play with the audience’s anticipation of fear. When a character enters a dark room with a terrifying painting of a demon on the wall, you expect something to happen with that painting. The lights go off around the painting, shrouding it in darkness. I expected a jump-scare (as there are a few), but Wan drags out the scene just long enough to milk as much tension as possible. And when the climactic fright of the scene finally creeps onto the screen, there’s enough technique and creepiness to make it one of the best scares of the year.

Most of the scares are genuinely creepy with some impressive special effects and solid cinematography. The images of demonic beings don’t appear the least bit cheap or shoddy the way they lurk in the shadows and roar with intensity. There are several amazing shots throughout including a flooded basement with spooks hiding under the water and a terrifying angle of Ed dangling out the window on a curtain.

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“Glass” Glows Amid Dim Weekend

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The weekend of the Super Bowl found the box office low about as expected with not a single film making over $10 million for the weekend. As such, there were very few surprises with which films ended up where. Just as with last week, Glass is at #1 for its third weekend, coming in with $9.5 million, shaping up to be another financially successful film from M. Night, though it’ll start dropping as we head into February. Just behind it is the dramedy The Upside, pulling up close with $8.8 million as it expanded into a few more theaters for the weekend.

The premiere for the weekend, Miss Bala, a cartel thriller, only debuted at #3 with a box office debut of $6.7 million. Not a very strong opening but it did manage to get just above the December box office hang-on superhero movies of Aquaman and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, still in the top 5. Green Book, coming up on awards season, soared higher in the box office upon expansion and The Kid Who Would Be King, unfortunately, won’t be seeing much of an audience going into February.

Debuting in a very limited engagement is Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, a WWI documentary with restored footage. The film had originally opened the last week of December in a handful of theaters but thankfully expanded into more theaters where it was strong enough to make it to #10.

Glass ($9,535,000)
The Upside ($8,850,000)
Miss Bala ($6,700,000)
Aquaman ($4,785,000)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ($4,410,000)
Green Book ($4,317,000)
The Kid Who Would Be King ($4,200,000)
A Dog’s Way Home ($3,510,000)
Escape Room ($2,900,000)
They Shall Not Grow Old ($2,405,000)

Next weekend is all about the LEGO. LEGO Movie 2, the animated sequel, will be hitting over 4,000 theaters. Also opening will be the thriller Cold Pursuit in 2,500 theaters, the killer-kid horror The Prodigy opening in 2,500 theaters, and the gender comedy What Men Want in 2,800 theaters.


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“Glass” Holds Firm, “King” and “Serenity” Sink

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M. Night’s Glass already had a lot of hype for being the most anticipated movie of January and the popularity is proving it. Now in its second weekend, the thriller has made another $19 million and has shown itself to be a box office success even in the colder months of January where it’s not exactly pulling in the largest of box office numbers. Not exactly a twist from a director known for twists.

The premieres for the weekend didn’t fare well at all. The Kid Who Would Be King, Joe Cornish’s kid-oriented fantasy of modern knights and demons, debuted only at #4 with a weekend gross of $7.2 million, lagging not far behind Aquaman which made $7.3 million. It seems strange that family entertainment wouldn’t be a bigger hit in a month with little of that. But then again, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is still in theaters and still doing well at #5, proving to have the legs to stick around into February as it continues to win awards for being a groundbreaking animated film.

Also debuting lower is Serenity, a new drama by Steven Knight. This one doesn’t seem as surprising given both the lack of promotion for the picture and the abysmally negative critic reviews, declaring the film as an early front-runner for the worst of the year. The movie only came in at #8 for the weekend with a gross of $4.8 million.

Worth noting is that Dragon Ball Super: Broly is still hanging in the top 10, latching onto the #10 spot with a gross of $3.6 million. Though not the biggest box office compared to its competition, it’s a big success for FUNimation pushing anime into theaters given they’ve yet to have as big of a release as this one and for such a long time. Most anime they release in theaters are only present for a weekend if that and tend not to crack the top 10 as often. Dragon Ball Super has become the exception and may lead to more anime screenings to larger theater counts in the future.

See the full top 10 for the weekend below:
Glass ($19,049,000)
The Upside ($12,240,000)
Aquaman ($7,350,000)
The Kid Who Would Be King ($7,250,000)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ($6,150,000)
Green Book ($5,413,000)
A Dog’s Way Home ($5,225,000)
Serenity ($4,800,000)
Escape Room ($4,275,000)
Dragon Ball Super: Broly ($3,600,000)


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Review: “Alita: Battle Angel” Fights Faithful, Dark, Fun

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When it comes to films based on Japanese anime and manga, they have a record far more stumbling than that of video game movies. These types of movies have been plagued with everything from confused direction (Dragonball Evolution) to cheap translations (Fist of the North Star) to awkward whitewashing (Ghost in the Shell). But Alita: Battle Angel may just be the first film to break that mold, at least from a translation point.

One would hope that the screenplay writer James Cameron would put some dedication into this project he had been talking about making happen for nearly two decades. Surprisingly, he matches the source material well. The world is perfectly defined with a cyberpunk dystopia of the far future, the elites residing in a metropolis of the sky while the poor cyborgs struggle on the surface world of garbage. Also present is the grim atmosphere which I questioned if Cameron would delve into, given that the original story was a depressing one of pathos, amputation, decapitation, bifurcation, and the murdering of a dog.

Keean Johnson (left) and Rosa Salazar (center) in Twentieth Century Fox’s ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

The film has all of this in telling the story of Alita (Rosa Salazar), a mysterious teenage cyborg found with very little of her body in a heap of dumped robot parts. Determined to rebuild her and give her a new life as a teenage girl is Doctor Ido (Christoph Waltz), committed to being a charity of a cybernetics doctor when so few can afford so much in artificial limbs they need. Alita is a kind girl, made all the more sweet with those artificially giant eyes added digitally. While this may really give her the look of an uncanny valley creation in hopes of replicating that anime style, it works well in defining Alita as both an artificial being and fitting in with the odd nature of cyborg society.

There’s a progressive build of Alita discovering both the world around her and uncovering her cloudy past. She takes as much of an interest in the fast-paced violent sport of Motorball as she does the scrappy young Hugo (Keean Johnson), potential boyfriend material. But she’ll soon come to learn that not everybody is who they appear to be, as both Hugo and Ido have secrets they haven’t revealed as the web of corruption in the city runs deep. All of it relates back to the giant floating paradise in the clouds that everybody shoots for, including the smug gangster leader Vector (Mahershala Ali) who acts as a puppet for those above, sometimes literally. Everyone wants to make it to the top and they’re willing to break any rule to get there.

Rosa Salazar (Alita) and Keean Johnson (Hugo) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

Of course, it’s no shock that Alita is the girl to shake things up and fight the system. This is where director Robert Rodriguez takes the helm of this project and gives it his own flavor of slick and violent action. He really pushes that PG-13 rating to the limit of how much you can get away with in dicing up cyborgs, staging intimidating barroom brawls and vicious battles on a giant racetrack. Even for a director known for plenty of violence in his films, Rodriguez still manages to cram in a number of ouch-worthy moments where characters are sliced in half or have their faces chopped at an angle. Also present is Rodriguez’s trademark humor that manages to fit in snugly amid the more tragic parts of this cyberpunk tale.

Alita still has a few kinks in the armor with some clunky bits of dialogue and emotions that run a little flat here and there. But I must admit I was surprised with how well this film holds together for being so ambitious in pursuing such a story, sticking to its essentials while still giving off a vibe all its own. I recall far back as being a teenager when hearing about Cameron’s plan to adopt the original manga into a live-action movie and doubting it would ever see the light of day, especially with his crowded schedule and the lacking adaptations over the years. But, lo and behold, I’m astounded to not only see the movie made but that it’s also well-made and true to its roots. A solid picture for fans of the manga/anime and a pleasing cyberpunk tale for newcomers of a teenage cyborg kicking metallic butts.

Rosa Salazar stars as Alita in Twentieth Century Fox’s ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.


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