The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

I promise to finally stop going on about how happy I am to be back in the cinemas & even though The Conjuring 3 is awful I’m still delighted to see a terrible horror movie in an actual cinema

Yet another addition to The Conjuring franchise and you know what that means, Ed and Lorraine Warren are back doing what they do best. More ghostbusting, jump scares, demon fighting, possessed people pulling all sorts of horrific contortions and even more jump scares. Is it scary? No. Is it fun? Also no. Sorry folks, I don’t like to be the one to hate on a Conjuring movie but honestly this is not good, at all and it might finally be time for The Conjuring franchise to say enough.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is loosely based on the real life murder trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson. When I say loosely based I mean they took the basic premise and completely ran away with it. So Arne (Ruairi O’Connor) is arrested for murder but it wasn’t really him it was a demon because why not. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) need to gather sufficient evidence to prove it was a demon responsible and not just cold blooded murder. Unlike your typical Conjuring movie, the third instalment doesn’t confine itself to the haunted house scenario. This one is all over the place in more ways than one. Ed and Lorraine must investigate and this takes them to a whole bunch of different locations but essentially the same thing keeps happening each time. They arrive to a new scary location, Lorraine holds out her rosary beads and senses the evil presence, she experiences a disjointed vision and then something scary jumps out and chases them around the woods/house/morgue. I don’t believe The Conjuring 3 adds anything new to the horror genre, it clearly appreciates other horror movies and pays homage wherever it can. Most notably the opening scene reminding us all of The Exorcist, a movie you’d be better off watching to be honest. The most impressive thing about The Conjuring 3 is the opening sequence featuring a possessed child. Using no CGI and instead opting for stunt double and contortionist Emerald Gordon Wulf. Aside from that it’s all downhill from there.

I’m a fan of The Conjuring 1 & 2, not the spin offs but I believe this is the point where the Conjuring Universe needs to retire. It’s well past its peak now and the standard seems to be just getting worse. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are really the only good thing I can take from this mess. Not recommended, if you’re in the mood for a horror movie do yourself a favour and see A Quiet Place Part II instead.

★★☆☆☆

Nobody

Nobody is a movie that completely understands its assignment. A quick plot set up and then on to the bone crunching action. It’s a short completely focused action movie with one mission, to entertain. My expectations weren’t exactly high but I enjoyed every minute of this wonderful bloody movie.

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is a bystander who intervenes in a situation to help a woman being harassed by a group of men. He then becomes the target of a psychotic drug lord (Aleksey Serebryakov) and must do whatever it takes to defend his family. Although to everyone who knows him, Hutch seems like your typical average guy, a nobody. It soon becomes clear that Hutch has a sketchy past and is a man not to be underestimated. I’ll never get tired of seeing an aged actor beating everyone to a pulp accompanied by a classic soundtrack. Maybe some people are sick of it but I’m sure not. So whether it’s Liam Neeson, family man who has a special set of skills and must do whatever it takes to protect his family by beating all the bad guys to a bloody pulp. Or Keanu Reeves who also has a serious set of lethal skills just trying to put his previous work behind him but gets dragged out of retirement anyway and must kill all the bad guys in the most creative ways imaginable. And new to the 55 years+ club, Bob Odenkirk, family man who must use his equally lethal set of skills to pummel absolutely all the bad guys for 90 minutes. I am here for it, from the action sequences, the fight scenes, Bob Odenkirk, Christopher Lloyd and a maniacal Russian mobster who spends every second on screen absolutely chewing the scenery. It’s everything you’d want in an action movie.

Nobody is darkly funny and just great fun. With the director of Hardcore Henry and the writer of John Wick you get a thoroughly enjoyable combination. Did I mention cinema is back? Well it’s back and it feels wonderful to shut out the world for a while and enjoy yourself. Highly recommended.

★★★★☆

A Quiet Place Part II

Cinema is back

Well everyone after six long months of lockdowns we’re finally at a point where the cinemas are ready to welcome us back and boy is it good to be back. I remember 15 months ago I was eagerly anticipating the release of the sequel to the highly successful horror movie A Quiet Place written and directed by John Krasinski. Initially it was difficult to see how a sequel would work without just being a repeat of what we’ve seen before. I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that not all franchises benefit from mindless sequels just for the sake of money. After a long 15 months of waiting, lockdowns and more lockdowns I’m was finally able to sit in an actual cinema to see A Quiet Place Part II and I’m delighted to say that it’s a worthy sequel on par with its predecessor.

A Quiet Place Part II begins with a flashback sequence and then picks up immediately after the events of the first film, the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds & Noah Jupe) must now continue their fight for survival in a world of silence. Forced to leave their home they must now journey into the unknown with the threat of the creatures that hunt by sound. By now we know the importance of silence in this film and how it’s used to build the tension. From the opening scene to the end credits you’ll be holding your breath, unable to relax as the tension builds. Everything from the score and the use of sound is effective in making you jump out of your skin. The frights just keep on coming and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Make no mistake this is the type of movie that cinemas thrive on. A Quiet Place Part II develops the characters from the first movie and throws in none other than Cillian Murphy to the cast. He gives a terrific performance and was a great choice to join the rest of the cast. It’s clear that A Quiet Place I & II are in the hands of someone who understands what makes a good horror movie. Great characters with a story so intense you’ll barely be able to breathe. The tension builds and builds to a third act that thankfully doesn’t fall apart. I did not expect the sequel to be this good and it’s looking very likely that a third movie is in the works and if there’s a good story and John Krasinski is directing then I’m totally on board for A Quiet Place trilogy.

There’s really nothing like the feeling of watching a film in a cinema. It’s an experience I’ve greatly missed and online streaming sites can only do so much. Certain movies are just meant to be seen on the silver screen and A Quiet Place II is definitely one of them. Home viewing just wouldn’t be the same. So horror fans it’s time to get back to it if you haven’t already, enjoy the magic of cinema with a truly brilliant horror/thriller. Highly recommended.

★★★★★

The Best & Worst Movies of 2020

Well as the end of 2020 draws near it’s time to reflect on the best and worst that cinema had to offer. Unfortunately with one thing and another cinemas didn’t have nearly as much to offer compared to previous years and as I’m not one for using online streaming services the only movies on this shortened list are those that had a cinematic release. There wasn’t near enough to choose from and I barely had enough to make one list let alone two separate lists. Here it is, five of my favourite movies and two of the worst from 2020.

The Good:

5. Uncut Gems

In at number five is another terrific crime thriller from the Safdie Brothers, Uncut Gems, a movie so intense that during a stress inducing final act the fire alarm went off in the cinema and I didn’t even notice until the house lights went up and the movie stopped.

With a role so clearly written for Adam Sandler as the charismatic New York City jeweler, Howard Ratner. A man with a serious gambling addiction spends 135 minutes making a series of incredibly high-stakes bets that could lead to the win of a lifetime. Sandler’s character is so infuriating and unlikable and to see him get himself into constant situations with everything becoming worse and worse is insanely frustrating. Immersive cinema at its best, it grips you and doesn’t let go until it’s over. Uncut Gems definitely stood out as one of 2020’s best movies.

4. Jojo Rabbit

It honestly doesn’t get any quirkier than this and with director Taika Waititi at the helm I’d expect nothing less. Jojo Rabbit is one hell of an emotional roller-coaster and tonally a bit all over the place which will leave most of you an emotional wreck by the time the credits roll.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is dead set on becoming a member of the Hitler Youth during the last years of WWII. When he finds a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his home he becomes caught between his moral conscience and his blind nationalism. You’ll be laughing one minute and nearly in tears the next. Jojo Rabbit has more than a few tear-jerking moments, yet the mood will quickly change any time Taika Waititi appears on screen as Adolf Hitler. Yes you read that right, Waititi portrays Jojo’s imaginary friend Hitler. I don’t believe any other person could have gotten away with that and on paper it sounds very strange but trust me on this, it works. It just about finds the balance between political satire and a moving story. Yes it’s a little outrageous at times but the acting from the entire cast is absolutely exceptional. Scarlett Johansson as Jojo’s mother and Sam Rockwell as Captain Klenzendorf give a standout performance, but it’s Roman Griffin Davis who really shines through. A black comedy that will warm your heart and if you missed the chance to see Jojo Rabbit this year I highly recommend it.

3. Tenet

Tenet was supposed to be the movie to save the cinemas and although I was lucky enough to see it twice on the big screen before we all went back into lockdown it wasn’t exactly the expected success at the box office. All I can say is I’m grateful I was able to see Tenet and be part of another mind bending cinematic experience from Christopher Nolan.

A Protagonist armed with only one word, “Tenet” fights for the survival of the entire world. If you really want a taste of what you’re in for then check out the trailer, you’ll still be confused but what can I tell you, it’s a confusing film. It’s got espionage, time travel, John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki and a little bit of Michael Caine (it wouldn’t be a Nolan film without Michael Caine now would it). What more can I say? Nolan’s originality never ceases to amaze and Tenet has raised the bar for the sci-fi genre. The whole movie is one giant puzzle that demands your full attention. Tenet is original, complex and exceptional. Not afraid to push the boundaries and raise the standard for what comes next.

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Wonder Woman 1984

If there’s one thing we all need to distract ourselves from the sheer chaotic madness that is 2020 it’s to lose yourself in an entertaining superhero movie and Wonder Woman 1984 is the delightfully entertaining distraction we need right now.

We last saw Wonder Woman during WWI and now fast forward to the 1980s Wonder Woman is back on the big screen facing two brand new enemies Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) and The Cheetah (Kristen Wiig). Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) now working in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. comes across a mysterious stone with the ability to apparently grant wishes to anyone holding it. The stone seems ordinary enough to everyone except of course the power-crazed Max Lord. Fear not as Wonder Woman is safely back in the hands of director Patty Jenkins, and beautifully accompanied by another stunning Hans Zimmer score. Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig are great additions to the cast, both making believable villains with clear motivations. Pascal particularly is stealing the spotlight and doing some real scenery chewing any chance he gets. Look, it’s not perfect and it has its issues, most of which you can overlook. I did feel it was missing an action sequence and it’s a little disjointed in places but despite that I enjoyed seeing Gal Gadot kick ass on the big screen again. Wonder Woman 1984 is a bright burst of 80s nostalgia with an old school superhero feel to it.

The days of sitting in a packed cinema are long gone and it’s uncertain when we’ll ever get back to that but right now the cinemas are open and operating safely so when you’re ready to get back in front of the silver screen again Wonder Woman 1984 is waiting for you, although depending on where you live you might want to hurry up and see it quick. Recommended for all you film buffs out there.

★★★☆☆

How’s Your Lockdown Going?

December 2020:

Did anyone expect the year 2020 to play out like Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion? No, me neither. I can’t speak for anyone else but after yet another lockdown I’m starting to understand Jack Torrance’s meltdown in The Shining.

The first week of lockdown way back in March felt a little bit like a snow day, the panic buying was certainly reminiscent of the days just before “The Beast from the East” hit Dublin in 2018. I think many people were enjoying the novelty of being at home with nothing to do but sit on the couch eating all their lockdown food in 3 days and catching up on that boxset you’ve been meaning to watch. And yes like many I may have re-watched a few favourites, Buffy, Hannibal, Breaking Bad you get the idea. The feeling here at least was this might last a couple of weeks and then we’d all be back in work again. This was far from true and if someone tried to tell me back in March that things would be worse 9 months later I wouldn’t have believed them.

The months in the first lockdown only made me crave the cinemas more, I mean there’s only so many socially distanced walks and zoom quizzes one can take. So when the restrictions were finally beginning to lift I wasted no time getting back to it. My first film was Unhinged, yes I know what you’re thinking but as you can imagine there wasn’t a whole lot of options. This was quickly followed by Pinocchio and then finally the much anticipated Tenet. This moment of normality was short lived and what with one thing and another lockdown 2.0 was looming. I did manage to see Tenet one more time before the cinemas and all other “non-essential” businesses closed their doors but now with everything closed again and all upcoming cinema releases either pushed to next year or moved to online streaming I’m literally counting down the minutes until I’m back sitting in the comfortable, colourful seats in the lighthouse cinema. However, I don’t know when I’ll ever get to hear live music again, see a performance in the National Concert Hall, have a drink in a bar with my friends. Hell, even just spend time with my friends again doing anything! And if that thought isn’t enough to drive one to the brink of madness I don’t know what is. I’m probably one zoom quiz away from going completely insane.

The thing I’ve done the most during this shitshow of a year is read. I may not have been able to get to an actual bookstore and I’m not one for using kindles but if you can’t get to the bookstore bring the bookstore to you. I’m not saying browsing books online was the same as going into an actual shop but it did the job and it pays to shop around. Between online bookstores, both Irish and non-Irish I was able to add to my ever growing book collection.

Below are some of my book recommendations for 2020
Robin Cook

Pandemic


I know what you’re thinking but keep in mind this was early days during the Pandemic. Not only was this choice appropriate but I thought this might ease my fears…it didn’t. Great book though, a real page turner that I couldn’t put down and not just because I had nothing else to do. No synopsis needed, the title says it all really.

Robin Cook

Outbreak


No not that Outbreak. Don’t expect this to be like that movie with Dustin Hoffman & the monkey, it’s so much better. I promise the virus theme doesn’t last long but curiosity got the better of me. If you’re in the market for a medical thriller you can’t go wrong with Robin Cook.

Dean Koontz

The Eyes of Darkness


A mother sets out on a quest to discover if her son really did die a year ago or if he is still alive. The theory behind this book was it allegedly predicted the Covid-19 outbreak originating from Wuhan. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t but it’s still worth a read for all you Dean Koontz fans.

John Fowles

The Collector


At this point I moved away from the virus themed reading and got back to what I love. A good crime thriller. A young man kidnaps an art student and keeps her captive in the cellar of his very much isolated farmhouse. Horrifying and incredibly tense.

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Pinocchio

I don’t care how old you are, anyone can enjoy a well told fairy tale and although I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Matteo Garrone’s interpretation of Pinocchio, the result is a beautifully dark retelling of the classic fairy tale. It really is refreshing to see a remake not done by Disney these days. This adaptation of Pinocchio has found the balance between nostalgia and a faithful retelling of a film we all grew up loving/traumatised by (I can’t be the only one who found the donkey scene traumatic as a child).

I’m sure anyone reading this is familiar with the story of Pinocchio but just in case; a poverty stricken wood-maker Geppetto creates a wooden puppet who magically comes alive. In order to become a real boy he must prove himself to be truthful and unselfish. There’s also a cricket, a fairy and some other fun characters in there too, just don’t expect the cricket to sing. Immediately it’s clear that this adaptation is much more faithful to the original novel. Surprisingly dark and atmospheric but it’s visually stunning and accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack by Dario Marianelli. The makeup for everyone is also very impressive even a little unsettling at how realistic it looks. This is exactly the kind of film a live adaptation should be, true to its source material with a dark tone and not overly reliant on CGI.

Recapture your childhood and let the nostalgia wash over you with this remake of Pinocchio that’s sure to delight people of all ages. Recommended.

★★★★☆

Tenet

Alright cinema fans, it’s time for a Christopher Nolan film so you all know what that means. Get yourselves into a cinema, the bigger the better and prepare for another mind bending cinematic experience that I can barely explain but I’ll give it my best. I honestly wasn’t sure we’d get a chance to see Tenet this month or even this year. But here it is, the movie to get us all back in the cinemas again. Well it’s sure to get the Nolan fans back anyway because you can have all the online streaming platforms you want with all these seemingly endless choices but there are certain movies you need to see on a massive screen with surround sound and Tenet is that movie.

I normally give a brief overview of the plot but for spoiler reasons I obviously can’t go into any real detail. A Protagonist armed with only one word, “Tenet” fights for the survival of the entire world. If you really want a taste of what you’re in for then check out the trailer, you’ll still be confused but what can I tell you, it’s a confusing film. It’s got espionage, time travel, John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki and a little bit of Michael Caine (it wouldn’t be a Nolan film without Michael Caine now would it). What more can I say? Nolan’s originality never ceases to amaze and Tenet has raised the bar for the sci-fi genre. The entire cast are outstanding, particularly John David Washington.

The whole movie is one giant puzzle that demands your full attention. Yes, that does mean no bathroom breaks, you’re not going to want to miss a second of this believe me. I’ve only just seen it and I’m dying to see it again and because of the complex narrative, Tenet is the type of film that would benefit from a second viewing. You get everything you’d expect from a Christopher Nolan film minus the Hans Zimmer score. Yet the score by Ludwig Göransson fits Tenet perfectly although I did find it overpowered some of the dialogue at times. Still, the exhilarating soundtrack will keep you on the edge of your seat. The stunts and practical effects are truly impressive. We all know Nolan favours real effects over CGI where possible and the results clearly pay off. Tenet is original, complex and exceptional. Not afraid to push the boundaries and raise the standard for what comes next.

The cinemas are open safely and ready so when you feel ready too be sure not to miss Tenet, better yet do yourself a favour and see it in 35mm or 70mm. Highly recommended.

★★★★★

Unhinged

Nothing says welcome back to the cinemas better than a deranged and demented Russell Crowe driving around the city in a rage-induced rampage.

Rachel’s (Caren Pistorius) already stressful day gets a whole lot worse after a confrontation with a highly unstable man at an intersection. Enter manic Russell Crowe and his roaring pickup truck. Rachel quickly becomes his target and spends the rest of this crime fuelled thriller trying to escape a severely unhinged man. Buckle up for a movie that’s not quite Duel and not quite Falling Down but somewhere in between. Keeps its foot on the pedal from the get-go and doesn’t let up till the credits roll. Stressful to say the least, but it does the job. It’s not the most original or memorable film you’ll ever see and honestly without Crowe Unhinged probably wouldn’t be on anyone’s radar. Yet he makes a great villain with a very menacing onscreen presence. It’s tense, entertaining, and may cause some paranoia the next time you get in your car.

Unhinged is the fun and immersive cinematic experience we need right now and after 157 days without seeing a single movie in the cinema I can tell you nothing felt better than losing myself in the big screen and forgetting all the other madness for 90 minutes. So if you’re itching to get back to the cinemas again and looking for something distracting and entertaining, Unhinged is waiting for you. Recommended.

★★★☆☆

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man is better than I ever expected it to be

Cecilia’s (Elisabeth Moss) abusive ex Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) commits suicide and leaves her his fortune. The relief that he is gone from her life is short lived as a series of very strange occurrences begin to happen to her. She suspects Adrian’s death was a hoax and he has found a way to haunt her without anyone seeing. How does she convince everyone that she is being terrorized by something invisible?

First off I had low expectations for The Invisible Man after watching the trailer, I felt it had bad horror movie written all over it. Not only that, but The Invisible Man was supposed to be one of the many monster movies in the Dark Universe franchise. A franchise that failed after one movie, you can all go ahead and blame Tom Cruise’s Mummy movie for that one. But The Invisible Man is not that kind of movie. The opening scene sets the tone of the type of movie you will be watching, taking a real life frightening situation and builds a horror movie around it. It uses everything at its disposal to keep you in a constant state of unease. From the camera work to the score and absolutely everything that Elisabeth Moss is doing. She really is superb in this, her facial expressions and stunt work are brilliant. I thought The Handmaid’s Tale was showing us Elisabeth Moss’s full range of emotional capabilities but she is well and truly pushed to her limits with this performance.

Everything about The Invisible Man pushes it away from your average horror. It doesn’t restrict itself to one genre, yes it is for the most part a horror movie but it’s also dealing with a very serious subject matter. The physically and emotionally abusive relationship and the aftermath of that. It raises issues of how we treat victims of abuse and the devastating effect it can have on one’s mental and physical health. It’s incredibly tense, unexpectedly horrifying and jam packed with frights. It will make you jump out of your skin and with plenty of stress inducing moments you’ll be on the edge of your seat. I’m impressed with how this movie has been reinvented to suit today’s audience. It is well worth taking the time to see, highly recommended.

★★★★☆