“Unexpectedly delightful, and I’m not talking about the current presidential debacle of multiple resignations.”-USA

This random movie that got little advertising earlier this year with even less buzz truly surprised me.  And after watching it, it makes sense to a degree. Sure, it’s mostly unoriginal. It takes much on from Gravity and Alien (1979).  Life boasts mostly impressive visuals that seem eerily similar to Gravity at times.  It comes across as a weak knock-off, however, with the first major scene serving us several minutes in one continuous shot (Sorry, but Gravity‘s 17 minute opening continuous shot delivers worlds more).  After Life gets….life…in itself (smirk emoji), it begins to take on the stuff that made Alien incredible. However,  Life never measures up, by any stretch, to Alien, the original hallmark of the horror/sci-fi genre, regardless of its darkness and hysteria.

But what Life lacks in originality, it makes up considerably in its performances and dark grit of horror/sci-fi.  With Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and Rebecca Ferguson, the cast does a nice job in harnessing the movie’s suspense. And with its suspense, the movie truly makes use of it’s R-rating with some gory, nasty deaths. Don’t get me wrong, this is the stuff of dreams for me; I just didn’t expect it. By the movie’s end, Life offered me enough anxiety-provoking moments that allowed me to actually enjoy the twist, despite how critics are claiming it to be predictable. But I have the IQ of a houseplant.

B-

*slow applause*- me

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I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a genuinely great horror movie like this. I’m hesitant to put Annabelle: Creation into the “one of the best rated-R horror movies I’ve ever seen” shelf, as it is currently stocked with, in order (take notes, please): Halloween (1978), Psycho (1960), It Follows, Cabin in the Woods, The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Trick r’ Treat, Quarantine, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Evil Dead (2013), and The Wolfman. Please note these are ranked by overall film and not by how scary they are; also note these are my rated-R favorites, and so my list excludes many of producer James Wan’s films from “The Conjuring universe.”

Let’s first return to the name of James Wan, who’s truly renovated the 21st century horror genre. He made a name for himself 13 years ago after directing Saw and ultimately helped in production for the rest of the Saw series. Directing the acclaimed Insidious, which is truly a staple of his, he went on to direct the unnecessary but still enjoyable Insidious 2.  Re-making a name for himself with The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, he began to create his own horror universe with these films. Annabelle eventually spun off from The Conjuring because the doll was so amazingly creepy.  Due in 2018, spin-offs of The Nun and The Crooked Man will debut as some of the more memorable moments from The Conjuring 2. Sorry for the James Wan parade, but I wanted to lay the groundwork for the horror world he has created with just (originally) one film, The Conjuring.

Back to the movie! Annabelle: Creation serves as the prequel of Annabelle, which was more-or-less a prequel to The Conjuring, and it surpassed its predecessors for an arsenal of reasons. Direction played a major part, much obliged to David F. Sandberg, who was behind last year’s great horror movie, Lights Out. He made great use of camera direction and movement with Annabelle: Creation that truly helped in creating some of the most suspenseful scenes I’ve endured in years. He truly mastered the use of the horror basics with blurred focus, long takes for suspense, and light/darkness.

Most incredible, which can be a rarity with horror these days, is that the the demon is shown with such great use of darkness and ambiguity; you leave the theater still with chills because you never see 100% of the creature most of the time. This was my biggest complaint of (what could have been one of the best horror movies in years) Mama from 2013. It lost its ability to be re-watched enjoyably and, most of all, its horror appeal, because of overuse of showing the creature and, hence, ruining what would have been left to the imagination.  To close, Annabelle: Creation is as close to horror-movie perfection we have been in years. The final scene seemed almost like an add-on to make a connection to its predecessor, but I won’t complain as it was still a unique-enough twist/closing.

 

B+

“Averagely unique. And disgusting. Don’t forget disgusting.”-me

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Director Gore Verbisnki is very eclectic in his works, which range from most of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies to the animated Rango, and from groundbreaking The Ring to the children’s movie Mousehunt.  The Cure for Wellness tried to do a lot, and much to my dismay, fell flat. Much of the movie’s score and cinematic sequences seem to hold a lot of promise, guiding us in “What will come next?” and a fair amount of suspense and intrigue.  I will say that visually this movie is very impressive and considerably well done.  But it also, sadly, makes up the 90% of why I enjoyed this movie.

What didn’t work, just at a glance, was that the main character. Played by Dane DeHaan (and nothing against him as an actor; he did well in Chronicle), the lead is just not likeable. Things start to take place with the main character after you trudge halfway into the movie’s 2 1/2 hours (of what could have been reduced by easily 45 minutes), and you find yourself not really caring what happens to him. Once you start to pick up on the idea that this movie doesn’t have much of a direction halfway through, you start to let this movie go into the background, only picking up on the over-production of it all. But please don’t be remiss in briefly discussing how vile some of the scenes were, not to mention just how real they came across. I haven’t looked away from a scene in disgust since 2013’s Evil Dead, which is a huge, uuuuuuuuuuge, compliment.

C-

 

“I questioned my sexuality.”-me

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Damn. Just, damn! Alright, so let’s dive in. DC Extended Universe took a ticket from Marvel and has been creating their own realm.  Man of Steel and Batman v Superman led the start of this universe, and putting Suicide Squad in the punish corner where it belongs, this world is starting off strong and giving Marvel a run for its money. Wonder Woman (hand claps to 2003’s Monster-director Patty Jenkins for having the biggest opening for a female director) takes the obvious reigns of a woman (kidding!) to focus greatly on emotion with some good characterization of Diana to portray why she comes to want to help humanity. (As an aside, Gal Gadot is so hot. She reminds me of an attractive, human version of Kim Kardashian.)

While this movie does seem to have some dragging moments, you have to give credit where it’s due, and it’s due in its sparse but lush action sequences. No exaggeration, my nipples got hard twice. I liked this movie far more than expected. As fives of you know, I don’t care much for World War movies. They’re, like, so long ago, and I want my Frappuccino, like, now.  But Wonder Woman somehow kept my interest.  I’m guessing it was greatly aided by the beauty and allure that Gal expelled, but I’m making my fiance jealous.

What I enjoy about the DC Extended Universe’s movies thus far is the fluidity that the superheros have when fighting in, albeit, CGI sequences. It’s more lifelike than the Marvel movies at times. And when they slow it down, especially in this movie, it allows you to truly enjoy everything it has to offer: grace, prowess, elegance, and grit. That’ll be the only other time I use those words not to describe myself.

A-

“Social politics that will spook you.”-me

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Jordan Peele separated himself from the Key and Peele series so hard that it blows my mind.  Just a quick applause for this first-time director, if I may. Making over $250 million off a less-than $5 million budgeted movie, while at the same time making critics moist and portraying racial barriers (which is sadly still a present-day issue) without being preachy or offensive? Hats off to this man for guiding through about 17 different laser beams of offensive in today’s bratty society.

Digression! Ge Out offers an oddly-perfect blend of laughs and suspense. While the twist did seem a bit obvious, it was still a smartly crafted movie. It payed homage to some of the horror films from the 70s and 80s subtly; its composed soundtrack gave me some fantastic 90s horror vibes. Appreciate Get Out for it’s social context that isn’t shoved down your throat so much as brought to a brighter light; enjoy it’s refreshing blend of thrills and lol moments.

B+

“*water splashing sounds*”-me

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I’ll start off with the most offensive line first: I didn’t like Emma Watson as Belle. You look back at the animated version from 1991 and you recall her smiling and being happy, like all the other Disney female leads were drawn to be. In the 2017 remake, shejust seems bored and irritable from her IBS. And while I enjoy Emma Watson in other movies, I would have chosen 18 other actresses over her to portray Belle, including Susan Surandon.

This movie gets some shit from the critics, and with good reason, because this remake takes everything we recall from the original and assumes it for us. It seems to just trudge from scene to scene, taking for granted everything we enjoyed from the animated version. As an example, personally, I was waiting for the big zoom-out moment during the dance scene between Belle and the Beast- nothing happened for me. In the 1991 version, that was such an elaborate and famous scene. In this version, I kept waiting for more.

For every other aspect of the movie, everything was effective. The musical numbers were diligent, well-manicured, and, when needed, over-the-top but seemingly flawless. The castle’s characters were done nicely with some interesting additions to them. The special effects were, as expected, on par with Disney’s impressive top-dollar displays. To play the live-action Disney remake game, The Jungle Book beat the hell out of this movie, for me. Still and all, this movie is worth watching as it is mesmerizing and some kind of spectacle to behold, regardless of my bitchy comments.

B+

“I didn’t see it, but it’s good.”- movie theater usher

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The soothsayer of a 17 year old ticket-tearing movie theater girl was spot on: it was good! I have not thought the genre of “comedy” was amusing after The Wedding Crashers in 2005. Genuinely: you name it, I probably don’t think it’s funny. For me, comedies have (more often than not) been over-hyped and been left for the apt teenager to gawk and laugh at brainlessly.  I haven’t enjoyed a dumb comedy since The Heat from 2013.  And the strange thing is I don’t care all that much for Amy Schumer. Lean in.

Snacthed was consistent, something most comedies seem to lack. From the very start, it demonstrates what kind of comedy it will be- it plays greatly on Schumer’s character’s crappy life and poor decisions while shedding a comedic light on the age gaps. This is done hilariously as director Jonathan Levine (of The Night Before) allows us to laugh as Schumer is more concerned about selfies and IG likes compared to Goldie Hawn’s maternal concerns of locking all three door locks and fears of being on vacation out of the country. The director’s choice for Hawn to play the mother comes across as random, and so her acting falls mostly flat. The side characters played by Joan Cusack and Ike Barinholtz definitely help fill in the laughs as the mute ex-Special Forces vacationer and the agoraphobic brother, respectively.

Overall, this movie does what a dumb comedy is supposed to do: make you laugh from start to finish and throughout. It was refreshing in that it didn’t center on drugs and sex like most comedies worry about. My age and nipple are showing now.  Anyways, it comes off much like Schumer’s stand-up: it’s inappropriate, picks on her flaws, and has you glad a female can be funny in these hard times. The message, or whatever the movie’s aim, may have gotten lost in the movie’s first half, but I L’ed, O’ed, and L’ed the whole gay time.

C+