4 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
The Conjuring (2013)
A return to the classic horror flick...
19 July 2013
Nowadays, reality television seems to thrive with audiences that want a peek into the lives of others. The feature length film, The Conjuring, isn't exactly a reality show, but does claim to be loosely based off the real life experiences of Ed and Lorraine Warren (paranormal investigators) and the Perron family. Like many horror flicks preceding, the implication that the events are somewhat real, does add a level of anxiety to the viewing experience. One of the film's trailers even features a family, in a documentary style interview, who asserts they are the family the film is based upon. It just may be left up to the viewer to decide how real, but the suggestion of true events will lend itself to a bit of buzz over the flick.

It's during the 70s that Roger (Ron Livingston, Office Space) and Carolyn Perron (Lily Taylor, The Haunting) moved their five daughters into a tattered New England home, which has a dark history the family is unaware of. The immense dead tree in the yard, the shadowy lake, and large ominous house act as foretellers, but that apparently isn't enough to steer this family away from home ownership. As expected, the mysterious occurrences happen from the beginning, though the pacing of paranormal activity is slow as the momentum of the film builds. April (Kyla Deaver), is the Perron's youngest daughter, and is the first to come in contact with the other side when she finds an antique music box. It's through the music box that she begins to see a young boy close to her own age.

After some time and several incidents, Carolyn cannot deny that something powerful and evil is terrorizing her home; she seeks the help of Ed (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga, Higher Ground). The Warren's are known for their expertise and experience with the supernatural. Lorraine, a clairvoyant, immediately senses the forces inside the home during her first visit. They later uncover the history of the property and determine the only possible way the Perron family would ever be completely safe is a sanctioned exotericism of the home performed by the Catholic Church. In the meantime, things escalate and as the evil forces react to the constant and threatening presence of Ed, Lorraine, and their team of investigators. It's soon evident that the Perrons are not the only ones in danger.

Director James Wan (Insidious), successfully reinvents the classic horror flick. The film is light on gore, but heavy with suspense and edge of your seat moments. It seems the audience cringes most at what's not there than what is revealed. He masterfully builds tension at just the right moments until the scene erupts with a crescendo. In one scene Christine (Joey King), one of the daughters, is awaken by one of the demonic forces. Her slow search of the dark room turned up nothing visually for the audience, but nonetheless turned out be one of the most terrifying scenes, leaving the audience in a prolonged state of anticipation—all the while waiting for the big scare.

An experienced cast further propels The Conjuring. The five young ladies cast as the daughters all perform excellently and plays "scared to death" quite convincingly. The four veteran leads: Farmiga, Wilson, Livingston, and Taylor are brilliantly, though Farmiga and Taylor pilot this feature as the tortured female leads. Whether you're a believer or skeptic, the film is worth a viewing.

Writerfrancoford@aol.com See more reviews at MediumRareTv.org
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Safe Haven (I) (2013)
Seems a bit familiar
14 February 2013
Southport, North Carolina serves as the backdrop for the latest Nicholas Sparks novel optioned for the big screen. With seventeen published novels under his belt, this marks the eighth book made into a feature length film. Director and Academy Award nominee, Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules) was challenged with bringing Safe Haven to the big screen. Hallström attempts to compete with the bankable success of The Notebook and Message in a Bottle—some of Sparks' earlier works.

Julianne Hough portrays Katie Feldman, who finds herself in a small seaside town after fleeing a crime scene. Though the circumstances of the crime are intended to be unclear and slowly revealed throughout the film, Katie's demeanor acutely paints her as the innocent victim. On the run and guarded, she attempts to settle into her new surroundings, all while keeping people at bay. Katie yearns for solitude and safety, but to the contrary, allows herself to be befriended by Jo (Cobie Smulders), a mysterious neighbor.

Katie still isn't too trusting when Alex (Josh Duhamel), the charming widower with two kids, attempts to court her. Jo encourages her to let down her guard and take a leap of faith. It's not long before the two become inseparable. Even Alex's young daughter, Lexi (Mimi Kirkland), instantly bonds with Katie, but Josh (Noah Lomax) isn't as easy to win over. Josh, a bit older than Lexi, is still scarred by the loss of his mother and isn't looking for a replacement. Eventually, Katie wins him over, but not before her past catches up with her. She is soon faced with the choice of running again or facing her past head on.

On its own merits, Safe haven is a likable flick, but considering the films legacy, it reads much like a familiar recipe. The recipe calls for a small rural town, a damsel in distress, impeding danger or tragedy, and the proverbial hero on a white horse. Even the movie posters of its predecessors all look quite similar. The film skirts around the issue of domestic violence, but somehow manages to sanitize the very subject matter, which earns it a PG-13 rating. After a somewhat intense physical confrontation, Katie looks far from battered. Whether intentional or not, the de-emphasis of abuse gives the film more of a fairytale feel than serious narrative. The attempt to keep the subject matter light is clearly an attempt to make the love story the driving force of the film. The drawback is that it leaves the film with no depth-killing its potential. Make no mistake; it will be a hit with Sparks fans that are fine with the mere love story. The producers are definitely pandering to their base.

Aside from the scripts shortcomings, the performances are above par. Young Mimi Kirkland gives a bubbly performance, often stealing the scene. It's tough to ask more of Hough and Duhamel, especially with the limits of the script. Safe Haven is nothing more than a safe bet.

Franco Ford MediumRareTv.org
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Snabba cash (2010)
Easy Money is worthy of a look
20 August 2012

Director, Daniel Espinosa, attempts to recreate the success of Jens Lapidus' novel, Snabba Cash (Easy Money). Maria Karisson was challenged with writing the screenplay, while Lapidus supplied insight for the manuscript. The film was originally released in 2010 and has now finally made its way to the states after several American film companies hashed it out for the rights. Expect sequels in the near future.

Johan "JW" Westland (Joel Kinnaman) is a student at the Stockholm School of Economics, who also secretly moonlights as a cabbie for Abdulkarim (Mahmut Suvakci), to make extra cash. When JW isn't driving a cab or studying he's, partying with the rich and powerful and goes out of his way to appear as one of them with his style of dress and charismatic demeanor. When Abdulkarim approaches JW with an opportunity to make some fast cash, he can't resist.

JW is tasked with delivering Jorge Salinas (Matias Padin Varela), who recently escaped prison, to Abdulkarim. Upon arriving at their rendezvous point, JW discovers that Jorge is being followed by Mrado Slovovic (Dragonir Mrsic) and must think fast if he is to save Jorge, whom he never met, from an uncertain death and collect his bankroll. He succeeds, impressing both Jorge and Abdulkarim, and is given the opportunity to work with them both in the drug trade they're attempting to get off the ground. Soon he is faced with the difficulty of managing two lives, one of which includes new girlfriend, Sophie (Lisa Henni).

JW is clearly the entity Easy Money revolves around in this action film, though,filmmakers Espinosa and Karisson attempt to reveal secondary story-lines with Jorge and Mrado–a feat which may have been less cumbersome in the novel. The film rotates between the three characters, but you can't help but feel cheated due to the incompleteness of their backstories. They do succeed in humanizing the three to some degree. Hence, Mrado is the hardened killer who finds himself caring for his young daughter unexpectedly and allowing his paternal instincts to take over. Likewise, Jorge vows to care for his family once the big drug deal is completed.

Espinosa directs a suspenseful film that doesn't solely depend on action sequences to entertain. Kinnaman gives a charming performance as JW. Varela and Mrsic both give noteworthy performances. By far, JW is the most complex of the characters. At first glance, it seems he is motivated by money, but it becomes clear that a sense of belonging is also a factor. His growing friendship with Jorge begins to impact his decisions and his relationship with Sophie. In fact, the bond of friendship plays a big part in the films questionable ending. However, it again appears the character development between the two lacked the necessary foundation as the outcome attempts to support. JW does evolve throughout this tale, but for the better or for the worse is left up to the viewer. Minus a few hiccups, Easy Money is engrossing and worthy of a look.
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ParaNorman (2012)
A Likable Movie not without it faults
20 August 2012
Reviewer @ MediumRaretv.org

Basking in the success of their first stop-motion animated feature film Coraline, Laika studios attempts to duplicate that success with its 3-D comedy, ParaNorman. Directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler leads an all-star voice over cast and a team of animators to bring the animated, horror, parody to the big screen.

Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) is the voice of misunderstood adolescent Norman Babcock. Norman has an appreciation for horror flicks and has a bit of a reputation. Norman is considered an outcast in the New England town of Blithe, where he resides with sister, Courtney (Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air); mother, Sandra (Leslie Mann,Knocked up); father, Perry (Jeff Garlin, Curb Your Enthusiasm); and the ghost of his deceased grandmother (Elaine Stritch)—which only he can see and hear. It's his communication with the dead that virtually makes Norman a pariah in his community and keeps him locking horns with his own father—and the fact that no one believes he can actually see the dead. It's only when a curse threatens to destroy the town that the citizens of Blithe soon realize that Norman may be their only hope for salvation.

The script relies on the often-recurring theme of diversity and acceptance to drive the storyline, which quickly moves the film into the realm of predictable. The irony is, nearly every character appears to be drawn perfectly imperfect. Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) whom quickly becomes Norman sidekick looks more like a beach ball than boy. Fell and Butler seemed to have made it a point not to the overload the viewer with aesthetically pleasing animated characters. In fact, many of the characters are often drawn overweight and with distinguishing characteristics. It's seems that it's an attempt to remind the audience that no one is perfect and we're all different—to further drive their point. The characters imperfections are merely parodying society as a whole, which is further illustrated in the plot when the townspeople start their own modern day witch-hunt.

The 3-D animation gives life to the all too familiar storyline and themes, though, eye-popping effects were minimum. Viewers of ParaNorman are left craving more 3-D action from the comedy/horror flick, but that's not to say the movie didn't have its gratifying moments visually. When the witch of Blithe descends upon the city, her spiritual form is represented by a fiery storm cloud with a diabolical face that is slightly eerie even in 3-D animation.

The comedic antis of a capable cast, which includes John Goodman, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Tempestt Bledsoe, further elevates the 3-D comedy, making it a worthwhile watch.The themes of ParaNorman feel a bit repetitive and in your face, but it's still an entertaining film with plenty of laughs for the family.
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