*NEW* THE CONJURING 2 REVIEW *NEW*

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Is this the best that James Wan could conjure up?

Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a malicious spirit.

I enjoyed the Conjuring. It may have been a little over-hyped BUT it was certainly one of the best horror films I’ve seen in the last decade. I wasn’t surprised to hear that a sequel was in the pipeline BUT after the abysmal Annabelle spin-off, I was anxious to say the least.

The first hour was brilliant. It took the same winning formula from the original and perfected it. The tense opening act got the ball rolling as our infamous paranormal investigators took on the Amityville Horror case. Thankfully Wan didn’t focus on that too much BUT it was a nice touch tying it in with the Enfield Haunting.

BUT despite the bubbling suspense, I was still a little disappointed that Wan took on Enfield in the first place. Especially when the critically acclaimed TV drama (A must watch) came out earlier this year. It was tough for me NOT to draw comparisons. We all know of the Enfield Haunting to some extent. If you were lucky enough NOT to, then this will freak you out a whole lot more.

Luckily Wan provided a creepy new addition for his roster of demented demons. I won’t be looking at nuns in the same way. That’s for sure.

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Shudder.

Every time she appeared in Farmiga’s dreams, I fidgeting uncomfortably. Nails bitten off.

Vera Farmiga was fantastic and carried the film when the pace dragged. The same cannot be said for Patrick Wilson. He was laughable and quite weak this time around. I guess it didn’t help matters that the story revolved primarily around Lorraine and her inner turmoil. Her dealings with the afterlife taking its toll.

Madison Wolfe was excellent as Janet Hodgson. Thank God the main child actor delivered because the others certainly didn’t. It was terrible having to listen to a good portion of the supporting cast screeching in horribly mangled “Cockney” accents.

Janet’s possession sequences were frightening. That was until the demented host spoke. The ghoul of Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) was creepy BUT once he started bellowing like Argus Filch from Harry Potter, it killed all the tension for me.

Wan loves to draw out a scene. Playing with the audience. Teasing the tension (aided by Joseph Bishara’s creepy score). The elongated hallway shots. The angles. The suspense as you knew something was going to happen or pop out.

For 60 minutes, I was fidgeting uneasily and caught up in it. Something I haven’t been able to do with a horror film in quite some time. BUT something somehow went wrong during the second half of the film. There was a moment where the film changed and lost all the fun for me. Spiralling downhill rapidly.

As soon as a neighbour’s Rottweiler morphed into something that looked like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, my fears subsided as did my patience.

The pace dragged putting me into a mini-coma (The 132 minute length really did take the biscuit). BUT the longer it went on, the funnier it got. I would have said that this could have been ripe for a parody BUT by the end, it didn’t need one. It didn’t help having weak characters BUT the performances, my God!

Franka Potente (Creep) was completely unnecessary as another paranormal investigator. Talk about too many cooks spoiling the broth. Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black) was heavily underused in a ridiculous supporting role as a neighbour. Anyone could have played her.

Simon McBurney (Rev) was hilarious as paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse for all the wrong reasons. His conversation with a possessed Janet had me in stitches; “No, no, this isn’t your house!” Frances O’Connor (Artificial Intelligence) got on my wick as troubled mother Peggy. There was one scene in particular where she notices a demented corpse creeping towards Ed (Wilson) and what does our bewildered heroine do? Point a flashlight at the thing and say, “”Ere, whose that?”. Bearing in mind, we’ve had 80 minutes of messed up mayhem at this point. Come on!

Even the Nun (Bonnie Aarons) got on my nerves by the end. She kept popping up screaming and shrieking every five minutes. I desperately wanted her to go.

If Wan could have spend more time on pace, story and character instead of creating creepy new characters with needless spin offs then this would have been worth the hype! BUT the frantic finale dragged its heels and didn’t pay off.

Horror films just haven’t been the same in a very long time. Relying on hype and cheap scares. Scariest film of the year? Hell to the no. BUT it’s still the best of the rest. And that’s the biggest scare of all.

2.5/5

THE WOMAN IN GOLD REVIEW

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The Woman in Gold or was it dark blue? Either way, go see it.

Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

FINALLY! I’ve managed to hit a run of good films. YES!

Mirren was superb. A perfect leading lady. Ryan Reynolds was also excellent. It was good to see him play a more subdued role. A normal guy fighting against the ruthless and contradictory Austrian legal system (Or the big guy).

I’m used to watching Reynolds play the same old obnoxious fast talking douche bag archetype. It was a breath of fresh air. Some proper acting from a talented actor (I knew he could. Just check out Buried for proof).

My only niggle was that you could tell the guy doesn’t wear glasses. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. If not, my four eyed brethren will understand.

They were a great pairing. I found the pace dipped a little in parts but it still keep me hooked. The set up took a little too much time to get going but I was distracted by the enigmatic duo as we delve into Maria’s past.

The film isn’t just about a painting. I’m no art lover but I wasn’t impressed by the actual art piece for all it’s controversy. BUT the story behind this cultural icon is something else. An icon that was stolen by the Nazis and never returned to the rightful owner.

Through a series of flashbacks and narration by Mirren, we soon discover the true origins of the renowned Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of Maria’s aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. The flashback sequences were riveting, engaging and upsetting.

The treatment of the Jews was handled delicately. We watch as Jews are forced to clean pavements with acid. Shopkeepers made to close their stores and mark JEW on their doors. The public humiliation by bystanders as their locks are cut off by Nazis.

You soon understand why Maria is so adamant not to go back. A place she vowed never to return. Max Irons (The Riot Club) and Tatiana Maslany were also very good.

It was great to see Maslany getting a meatier role on the big screen after her award winning turn in the HIGHLY recommended sleeper hit TV series Orphan Black. She played young Maria brilliantly.

I couldn’t believe how quick the majority of the Austrian community turned against one another. Giving Maria’s family up without hesitation to the Nazis. A good portion of them had attended her wedding only a few days before.

The pace soon picks up as the film flicks back and forth from the past to the present (Well, 90s). The legalities and clauses appeared a little technical but were soon explained. The only problem was once it was explained, I couldn’t believe the difficulty that the pair had to endure just to get a case together.

Stalling tactics from the conniving Austrian officials as they throw ridiculous loopholes and rolls of red tape. It was never about the money for Maria. It was about doing what was right. For family and remembrance.

Maria was even prepared to let the museum keep the portrait but only if they admitted fault. But the officials couldn’t even do that.

It was intriguing watching Randol’s (Reynolds) transformation; a struggling lawyer who took on a case originally for a quick buck. However, the journey he takes with Maria changes everything. His breakdown after visiting the cemetery and Jewish memorials that commemorated his own ancestors really hit home.

The flashbacks, after a nail biting street chase and tense encounter with border patrol, seemed to end a little abruptly. Obviously, it caught up with the present but it would have been nice to know what happened to Maria’s husband after spending a good chunk of time watching him flee from Austria. A passing comment about him from Maria felt a little flat.

The flashbacks did re-appear in the closing minutes and brought a tear as Maria finally opens about the last conversation she had with her parents. A heartbreaking moment between Maria (Maslany) and her father (Allan Corduner) made sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The supporting cast were good, if a little restricted. Katie Holmes played Randol’s wife well. But her character wasn’t really integral to the story and was very much in the background. The only roles she seems to get these days.

Daniel Bruhl was very good as the news journalist desperate to help Maria and Randol. Providing useful advice on the by-laws and using all the contacts at his disposal. It’s great to see him appearing in more mainstream Hollywood flicks. I’ve been a fan since Goodbye Lenin!

Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) had the easiest role going as Randol’s boss. The only thing that stood out for him was his commendable American accent!

The closing trial scenes were not as dramatic as I expected. I anticipated a grand trial with relentless closing arguments not a formal affair with the verdict riding on three art officials in a convention room. But the end result was still uplifting and the closing credits revealed some facts that surprised me.

Despite my little niggles, I still found The Woman in Gold a brilliantly acted and and engaging biopic that is definitely worth your time.

3.5/5