REVIEW: Annabelle Comes Home [2019]

Miss me? After an excitingly popular debut during The Conjuring‘s prologue, the creepily revamped Annabelle doll (its real-life counterpart was actually a Raggedy Anne) earned the title role in the first spin-off of this ever-growing horror universe. That installment left much to be desired with screenwriter Gary Dauberman eventually redeeming himself three years later on Annabelle: Creation thanks in part to director David F. Sandberg. You might assume this demonic vessel would then be left alone since its tragic trajectory had now been fully drawn from the home of its…

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REVIEW: The Nun [2018]

Mary points the way. There’s a scene in Corin Hardy‘s The Nun where a young postulant receives her vows inside an unholy abbey while the ashes of a dead sister smoke in the background and an unlikely alley loads a shotgun in the fore. It’s the type of moment that should conjure laughs via its absurd juxtaposition and yet anyone who follows The Conjuring franchise knows the inherent severity of its subject matter renders such comically ripe material unintentionally hilarious instead. That’s why so many of these movies find an…

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REVIEW: Godzilla: King of the Monsters [2019]

This will not bring him back to us. Here’s the thing. Godzilla vs. Kong was announced way back in 2015—a year after Godzilla released and two before Kong: Skull Island. Warner Bros. wasn’t taking their time rolling out the MonsterVerse and thus guaranteed we knew the big bad reptile and big bad mammal would eventually square off. So with a writers’ room formed in 2016 to get everyone on the same page as far as how and why that titanic fight would manifest, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was always…

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TIFF REVIEW: Skin [2019]

This is what I have. Bryon ‘Babs’ Widner (Jamie Bell) hears the buzz of a faulty electrical connection, triggering a transition to an operating table and screams as the tattoos covering most of his body start being removed. It’s a soundscape that’ll have you squirming in your seat, the close-up shots of scar tissue replacing ink as physical a transformation as the act is metaphorical. Because the art adorning his face, neck, and torso isn’t some elaborate supernatural fantasy with family memorials—it’s a map to the blackest center of his…

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TIFF REVIEW: The Front Runner [2018]

A lot can happen in three weeks. And so it began—sentiments that prove true only until the next example replaces it. We’re just two years removed from Donald Trump’s victory for president of the United States and already the art seeking answers about what went wrong and what went right have arrived. Much of it stems from finding a turning point to mark when the mainstream media started including tabloid fodder under the header of journalism, when politics shifted from the good of constituents and country to that of party…

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REVIEW: The Commuter [2018]

One little thing. If the timeline is to be believed, the fourth meet-up between director Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson entitled The Commuter was the result of the latter rather than the former. Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi‘s story went through the hands of at least two other stewards as well as a rewrite by Ryan Engle before finally going in front of the cameras. So one could hypothesize Collet-Serra was brought in as someone familiar with the genre, tropes, and especially the lead actor to bring things home.…

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TIFF16 REVIEW: Burn Your Maps [2017]

“The kid in the strange clothes said he gave birth to two goats” Many films deal with the aftermath of a family death by becoming about how their characters live with the pain—changing them into different people. Some distinctly show them living despite it instead. Rather than depict Connor (Marton Csokas) and Alise (Vera Farmiga) as the death of their baby girl just ten months prior consumes them, Jordan Roberts‘ Burn Your Maps portrays their desire to move on after their transformations are complete. They’re searching for a future they…

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REVIEW: The Conjuring 2 [2016]

“This is the closest to Hell I ever want to go” When a formula succeeds as well as that of James Wan‘s The Conjuring and its real life subjects have as extensive a Rolodex of haunting investigations as Ed and Lorraine Warren, the prospect of a sequel arrives as both inevitability and an initial pause. Generally these types of projects change creative hands early so studios can rush ahead without worrying about scheduling conflicts, but Wan has never been one to shy away from involvement on subsequent entries to his…

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REVIEW: The Conjuring [2013]

“There’s usually always some rational explanation” After watching the cinematic account of the Perron family’s plight in 1971 during James Wan‘s The Conjuring—alongside a brief view at Annabelle, the creepiest little possessed doll ever—it’s hard to believe paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren’s most infamous case of demonic insanity was Amityville. Described as the story that couldn’t be told until now via an opening text-based screen crawl reminiscent of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the events that occurred in Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn’s (Lili Taylor) Rhode Island home are…

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REVIEW: Source Code [2011]

“I’d kiss you again” If it seems familiar, well it is. Duncan Jones’s sophomore effort, after his one man-show Moon, is eerily similar to Tony Scott’s Déjà Vu from five years ago. But while the Denzel vehicle dealt more with police work and action, Ben Ripley’s script for Source Code delves deeper into the ramifications of the science fiction at play. Using the phenomenon that the human brain keeps an image of its last eight minutes alive coupled with the fact our minds continue to fire after our bodies have…

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INTERVIEW: Debra Granik, writer/director of Winter’s Bone

While attending the 360|365 George Eastman House Film Festival in Rochester, I was struck by the selection of festival winners screening for its Upstate New York audience. With so many award-winners, I went in blindly to whatever fit into my schedule, experiencing work I wouldn’t have a chance to see in theatres for months, if at all, here in Buffalo. After three straight days of movies, Winter’s Bone, the winner of the 2010 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Drama, ended up being the final film of my tenure there. I…

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