The Nun: Horror film is Predictable, but Fun

2.5 out of 5 stars (Decent)

The Nun poster
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The Nun is the newest installment in the popular Conjuring film series, though you don’t need to have seen the other films to get it.  While it certainly isn’t as good as The Conjuring 1 and 2, the film is a suitably fun Haunted House Movie (or, Haunted Abbey Movie in this case), and should satisfy people who enjoy easy, predictable jump scares with friends.  Unfortunately, anyone expecting a character-driven story like the first two Conjurings will be sorely disappointed.

Father Burke (Demian Bichir) has been sent to an Abbey by the Vatican to investigate a nun’s suicide.  He is joined by unavowed novice Irene (Taissa Farmiga, TV’s American Horror Story) and comedic relief guide Frenchie (an enjoyable Jonas Bloquet), and the trio sets off to the abbey unaware of the sinister and supernatural evil that calls it home, namely a ghostly Nun (An effective Bonnie Aarons).

I understand why most critics are being harsh on this film.  This is a horror series that has stood out from the crowd by providing engaging stories and interesting characters along with effective scares, and this one is more focused on the scares.  The characters are not as interesting as they could be, but the performances are good enough to get you through if you like this kind of thing.  I’ll likely forget most of the details of this film after writing this review, but I enjoyed watching it with my cousin alone in the dark theater.  This should have been a Halloween release, not a Summer one.  The dark, gothic design of the Abbey and candle-lit hallways make it perfect for home viewing parties with friends, and there are unexpected bits of humor to lighten the mood (something other films did not have), to good effect.

The Nun’s biggest failure is its reliance on predictable jump scares over an engaging story or characters.  The camera movement repeats in every scary scene to prepare you for the ghouls to pop out: Shot of the room from the ceiling, then a close-up shot of the character’s face, then the camera slowly turns to reveal the ghost behind them.  It’s fun, but seriously predictable and feels longer than its 96-minute runtime.  Despite that, I would still recommend renting the film, as there are enough good effects and some good humor to make it a fun ride. Rent it.

Rated R for Terror, Violence, And Disturbing/Bloody Images

7 Reasons to see “Episode 7”

  1. Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens Poster
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    New faces enter, old ones return-It’s a chance to see all of your favorite characters (well, the ones that didn’t die) from the original trilogy. They may have aged a bit, but they are still the same people you remember from the original classics. We also get some new, equally classic and relatable characters into the mix too!

  2. Strong Female Lead-This film has the best female lead of 2015. She’s fast, furious, and can kick some serious butt when necessary. However, she cares for her friends and will be strong even when she is feeling weak on the inside. My apologies to Furiosa (of this year’s Mad Max: Fury Road) and Katniss Everdeen, but this film outdoes them by a mile. I see a very bright future for Daisy Ridley, the actress who portrays this character, as she has a fantastic screen presence and immediate likability that few modern actresses possess, as well as being able to be funny and dramatic with perfect finesse. I hope to see her in many films after this trilogy ends, as her career is off to a perfect start.
  3. Strong African American lead-This film not only has a strong, unsexualized female lead, but an African-American lead as well. In a market where black people are primarily comic relief and/or side characters, it was wonderous to see one on the front lines. He is resourceful to his comrades and will do anything to help those close to him, despite the risks involved. John Boyega has unexpected energy on screen, as well as great chemistry with his co-stars. I hope to see his star rise high after this franchise is done.
  4. Humor-The trailers for this film make it look as if it’s going to be extremely dark and serious (because we don’t have enough of THAT in our multiplexes). Fear not, this film is extremely fun, with fast, witty banter between characters just like in the original trilogy. It’s not a comedy, but this film is the funniest installment since The Empire Strikes Back.
  5. Action-This movie is loaded with action. Every sequence is well-shot, superbly intense, and amazing to watch on the big screen. Every set piece outdoes the last, something that few action films can pull off. The 3D only increases their awesomeness. If you enjoy action, then this will surely satisfy you.
  6. Story-Don’t worry, I won’t give anything away here. The narrative of this film is its primary focus, a shocking rarity in modern sci-fi. The story is always engaging, always moving towards the final result with some of the finest pacing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s unpredictable to the point of craziness, and that is a high accomplishment.
  7. JJ Abrams-The final reason to see this film is its director, JJ Abrams. A huge fan of the franchise, JJ understands what people want to see, and brings the best elements of the series (great characters, humor, and action) while leaving the worst (people sitting and talking) behind. I am extremely sad to say that he will not return for the next two episodes in the trilogy. Hopefully he stays in the loop, as he has created a story that could take this franchise in exiting new directions if done correctly
  8. Bonus: You don’t have to watch those pesky prequels again to understand what’s going on here-breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Those are my thoughts on The Force Awakens .  If you like Star Wars, you have to see this.  If you don’t, then you’ll enjoy the action anyway.  I don’t normally do this, but I declare this to be my number one film of 2015.  May the Force Be With You All This Christmas

Marvel’s New Film Not Fantastic, But It’s No Failure

2.5 out of 5 stars (decent)

Fantastic Four 2015 Poster
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Note: My thoughts on this film (often stylized as Fant4stic) have changed dramatically since this review.  Today, I completely agree with the majority opinion: the characters are weak, the tone is overly dour, and the film completely lacks a second act due to studio meddling.  Today, I would likely give it 1.5 out of 5 stars (one of the worst of the year).  I don’t know what possessed me to give this a decent review back in 2015, but please enjoy my faint praise below:

Marvel’s newest, non-Avengers offering: Fantastic Four is not what you think it is.  The marketing for this made it look overly dark and contemplative for a film of its type, leading me to believe it would be a serious character study that would bore me to sleep.  The reviews thus far have said that this movie is dull, overly dark, and anticlimactic.  I wholly disagree.  Though it is noticeably flawed, Fantastic Four is a fun, decently entertaining sci-fi action film with some good humor and likable characters.

Reed Richards (Miles Teller of the Divergent series and Whiplash) is a misunderstood genius who has been building a machine that would allow interdimensional travel with his best friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell of 2005’s King Kong) since the 5th grade.  Now a senior in high school, Reed displays his machine for a science fair, only to have his teacher to laugh it off.

Reeds’ luck changes when he is given the opportunity by scientist Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey of The Wire) to get his machine up and running.  Reed will work with Franklin’s children, hothead Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), and Frank’s old colleague Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell) to achieve this.  The quartet eventually makes their dreams come true, but that comes at a price that none of them could have ever seen coming.

I understand that my plot description seems a bit rote, but I cannot tell you anymore of the story without spoiling it. I can assure you it is worth it.

The cast is fine in their respected roles. Miles Teller and Kate Mara are believable as nerds, and Toby Kebbell does fine with what he is given.  Michael B. Jordan provides good comic relief, but he isn’t very interesting.  Jamie Bell gets the short end of the stick, as he doesn’t have enough to do in the film, and disappears for some of the first act, only appearing when the plot needs him to.  Because of this, I didn’t have a strong connection with the character, something that the last set of films (yes, this is a reboot) nailed.

Action-wise, it’s good when it’s there. There’s one action sequence at the beginning, a very short one in the middle, and one at the end.  They are intense, well-shot, and don’t go on too long (In fact, I wouldn’t have minded if the climax was a bit longer, but it’s good as is).  Josh Trank (who co-wrote the script) confidently directs the action, but he could improve in directing his actors.

In my review of Ant Man, I mentioned the good chemistry between the actors. Fantastic Four is the exact opposite.  The actors don’t have consistent chemistry with each other, making many of the scenes awkward to watch.  I understand that Reed and Sue aren’t going to be like Buffy and Willow right away, but Reed’s chemistry with Ben is so bad that it’s nearly laughable.  On the bright side, Franklin and Johnny work passably off of each other, but only passably.  This is not the script’s fault (though it is far from a perfect gem), it’s the fault of Josh Trank.  This is only his second film, and I feel it was a mistake to give a big project like this to someone who isn’t experienced enough to handle the pressures of it.

My final complaint is the amount of profanity in the movie. I normally have no issue with it, but Marvel doesn’t have a lot of bad language in their movies, and this one had much more than I expected.  I have seen lots of kids in Marvel theaters throughout the years, and this movie alienates that audience segment by inserting the profanity.  Kids beg for the merchandise for these movies, so putting in profanity only prevents them from being able to see it.  Those kids might be a saving grace for the movie, given its current projected box office returns.

Fantastic Four is not Marvel’s best by any means, but it certainly not its worst either. The individual actors are good and the humor is appropriately placed.  When present, the action sequences are intense and decently exciting, and the script is mostly sound (despite a few over-the-top lines and catchphrases at the end, but they are forgivable.)  See Fantastic Four at the $2.00 Theater, and you should be decently entertained.

Rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence and Language