All posts by Mike

Exclusive Review: The Conjuring

The_Conjuring_1Director:  James Wan

Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes

Principal Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor 

Horror, my favourite genre; well one of them. Yet it’s a genre in a terrible state of affairs at the moment. Especially mainstream horror, the bigger studios are playing safe, removing the shocks, controlling the gore and driving films into a ratings band that they shouldn’t be in. While US horror films are in a major lull, I look to the Indie and foreign language films to fuel my horror needs, they seem to be pushing the genre forward, France and Spain seem to be leading the way, while the East is always a good place to look for a decent horror film.

So you may be wondering how I’ve seen this film, a month before general release, well I have Frightfest and the infamous Sleepy Q to thank for that. This was our “Thank you” film for buying tickets to this years festival, braving the elements etc etc; though I only joined the queue at 6am. Some had been there all Friday ; hats off to them brave souls! We also got a video introduction by James Wan.

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The Conjuring, claims to be based on real case studies by Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren, who’s most famous case study happens to be Amityville. Though a little research shows that while the Warren’s did investigate paranormal events at the Peron’s family home the story has been embellished for the big screen, we shouldn’t be surprised really, but on the plus side knowing this now makes no difference to how I feel about this film.

James Wan’s previous film Insidious was 2/3’s brilliant to 1/3 average, the average section being the final act. The build up and overall creepiness of this film showed a lot of potential in this young film maker. Yet he undoes some of his hard work with that final section and forced final scare. Though he has filmed a second Insidious, which I’m looking forward too.

Even more after The Conjuring,  for me this is Wan’s best film so far, he doesn’t let it fall apart at the end. The film builds nicely and then explodes into a relentless final act which really had me unsure of the fate of the Warren’s and the Peron’s. It opens  with a good introduction to what the Warrens do and how they see the paranormal world. Wilson (also the star of Insidious) and Farmiga are very good here, very solid in their roles. Then we meet the Peron family, the house and shortly after that the paranormal happenings start. From here the tension builds, the feeling of unease while we are around the Peron family grows and grows. There are obvious moments, but Wan also deals us some curve ball moments as well, and I admit I jumped a couple of times (and I never really jump!). Yet it was the creepiness of it all which got me, on numerous occasions I felt the hairs stand up on my neck; a great sign I am enjoying it.

As for the rest of the cast I have to praise Lili Taylor in her role as Carolyn Perron, she is brilliant, never over plays it and looks genuinely scared at times! The rest of the Perron family are all good, the kids especially. I really had no issues with much in this film at all;  maybe I was just happy that I was finally enjoying a horror film from America.

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Yet all this will be undone if you watch the trailer, even the hand clapping teaser,  the trailer which opened this weekend on the cinemas had 3 or 4 of the best scares in it, my advice is just see the film. If you are in the cinema and the trailer comes on close your eyes, it’s a much better experience if you don’t know what’s about to happen!

This is the best horror film I’ve seen this year, I am curious to see how well it plays on a 2nd viewing, and I will be there on opening weekend. This is a film to see with a full house and hopefully some people who haven’t seen the trailer!

Though my faith in US horror isn’t restored this is a big step in the right direction; yet for every really good film like this we have 5 or 6 bad ones like Texas Chainsaw 3D to drag us back down. I would have really enjoyed seeing The Conjuring on Empire’s screen 1 in the Frightfest festival – I really think it would have played very well.

5/5 – Maybe not – but in terms of the horror films this year it is!

The Conjuring @ IMDB

Miami Vice (2006)

DVD Review by Mike

Miami Vice

Directed by : Michael Mann

Written by : Michael Mann & Anthony Yerkovich

Principal Cast : Colin Farrell , Jamie Foxx , Li Gong , Naomie Harris 

I do enjoy Michael Mann’s films, I think he is a director with great style and possible one of the best night directors working today.  As for his TV show Miami Vice, it was one of my favourite programmes growing up, entertaining, good characters and some great plots, I rarely missed an episode.

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Keeping the style

Now as for the film, I do recall it opening to mixed reviews, maybe some were just expecting a big screen version; this isn’t what they got. Instead the film was quite removed from the show, it was dark, serious and far more grittier, with quite a different style of writing. The script dropped the humour, I don’t recall a single chuckle throughout the film. Yet I like it, the danger, the fear seems much more heightened and realistic than the show. I’m not saying the show never had some tense, exciting episodes it did, but I get the feeling that this film is Mann’s original vision for the TV show; maybe the TV executives just didn’t feel the viewers were ready for 22 episodes of this gritty, hard hitting style of TV! Yet in today’s TV world I think it would be a major hit!

Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx come in and take on Don Johnson’s Sunny Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas’s Ricardo Tubbs respectively. Both do superb jobs for me, they are different takes on the characters, more focused, ruthless and of course much more serious!

Foxx as Tubbs
Foxx as Tubbs

Though Farrell does take some of Johnson’s style with the clothes he wears. Foxx just brings the pain; he is seriously bad ass in this role. Naomie Harris plays Trudy Joplin, another member of the vice unit, and a love interest for Tubbs. Though I don’t recall that happening in the show; yet it’s used in the plot with good effect. Overall the cast is great except for Harris the rest of the Vice squad are bit players though, as Farrell and Foxx command the screen time; as you would expect.  There is no introduction to the characters as the film opens in the middle of Vice raid; maybe Mann feels that the majority of people would know these characters and building any back story is pointless.

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Crockett & Isabella

On the other side of the coin, Li Gong,  Luis Tosar and John Ortiz all make credible criminals, though John Ortiz seems the go to guy for a South American drug runner nowadays.

It’s a typical Miami Vice plot, drug running, double crosses and kidnapping, nothing new here. It really doesn’t need to be anything else, this is the basis of the show and it works, why change it or make it something else. The action is superb though it’s not a full blown action movie, Mann strips it away to give it a realistic feel, the shootouts are fantastic, the sound is stunning. Also the boat running scenes are excellent and of course the night scenes are a visual treat, but I expect that from Mann.

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Tubbs & Crockett

The soundtrack is very good, with Mann using a cover of In The Air Tonight; possible the most famous scene and song from the TV series, though the cover isn’t as good as the original.

It was great to revisit this film, I really enjoyed watching it again, though it’s made me want to dig out my Miami Vice TV boxsets. I feel the changes Mann has made work, they give the film it’s own identity and not just a big screen extended episode like some TV to Cinema films have suffered from recently.

Rating : 4 / 5

Find Miami Vice at IMDB.

REVIEW: Rock Of Ages (Blu Ray Extended) (2013)

Review by Mike

Directed by: Adam Shankman
Rock Of Ages

I do admit to a soft spot for musicals; and why not! So a musical featuring some of my favourite soft-rock songs of the 80’s was always going to play well for me. Though it’s not perfect and I know this film has some problems, but then again it pulls some surprises that really work for it.

The story see’s a small town girl Sherrie (Hough) arrive on Sunset Strip looking to make it as a singer. She ends up working at Bourbon Room as a waitress where she befriends Drew (Boneta) who’s is waiting for his big break as well. The Bourbon Room is run by Dennis (Baldwin) and his assistant Lonny (Brand); though the club is having financial difficulties; though a performance by the legendary Arsenal rocker Stacee Jaxx (Crusie) would benefit the clubs problems. But Jaxx has his own issues, drink, women, his manager Paul (Giamatti) and Patricia Whitmore (Zeta-Jones); who is intent on ruining Jaxx and the Strip in one go.

REVIEW: Evil Dead (2013)

Review by Mike Shawcross.

Directed by: Fede Alvarez

Written by: Fede Alvarez (Screenplay), Robo Sayagues (Screenplay)
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci,  Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore

Evil Dead 2013 Poster
Another remake, another re-imagining of a so called classic horror film, yet to tell you the truth, I’m not too bothered this has been remade; I’m not a massive fan of the original film. That said they could very easily have made a complete mess of this one, thankfully they haven’t.A friend of mine Martin (who also writes for this site) won two tickets to see the film 2 weeks before release; how could I say no when he asked. There was a pretty decent turnout really at the screening, possible 2/3’s full and a very mixed crowd, and I mean a mixed crowd. This was not your a-typical horror fans, not your Frightfester’s that’s for sure. I was expecting a few walk outs, and a couple did leave half way through.I have to admit I was pretty excited about this film, firstly I was hoping I would enjoy it more than the original, which I did. Secondly my media blackout, no trailers, no reviews, no knowledge might just enhance the experience a little more; which I think it did, actually it made the experience a lot more rewarding for me. That said though I really didn’t need anything to get me that excited, it’s a horror film at the end of the day, and that is one of my favourite genres.

REVIEW: Skyfall (2012)

Review by Mike Shawcross.

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Blu Ray SteelBook50 Years of James Bond, really that is quite a remarkable anniversary for a film franchise. Since 1962 when the world was introduced to Bond; James Bond, we have coveted this spy, this debonair gentleman, this ladies man, this hero of the silver screen.  Men have wanted to be him, woman want to be with him, he is a true icon of the film world.Yet the films have been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs and eventually they stopped the car and started it on a new track. The 21st film Casino Royale; was the new track the Bond franchise needed, and along with it came a new Bond, Daniel Craig.

REVIEW: This is 40 (2012)

Review by Mike Shawcross.

A film about life when you reach 40! 

Judd Apatow’s sort of sequel to Knocked Up, having not seen this, I don’t know the connection between the films. I assume I’ve not really missed out by seeing This is 40 first.

Apatow continues to write and direct about everyday life, this time turning his focus on a couple as they both turn 40. The trials and tribulations they both face at this age milestone; financial troubles, kids and family all add to the drama that is life. Apatow litters the film with funny moments, but also piles on the drama as well. Sometimes a little too heavy at times though he does tend to rescue it with a funny scene before it gets too depressing. I sometimes wondered if he was constantly trying to balance the drama and comedy, never wanting it to come off overly funny or far too depressing.

Continue reading REVIEW: This is 40 (2012)

REVIEW: Beautiful Creatures (2013)

Review by Mike Shawcross.

The next Twilight? 

That’s what most people will say, a story of a doomed romance between a witch (caster) and a mortal. Really when you look at it like that, it has all the hallmarks of being the next twilight. Throw in the fact there are 4 novels in the series and we are looking at a franchise film.

Continue reading REVIEW: Beautiful Creatures (2013)