10 Cloverfield Lane: Movie Review

10 cloverfield - poster

Synopsis:
Michelle is run off the road and awakens in a bunker with her leg chained to the wall.  She was “saved” by Howard, a large man who is a terrible combination of socially awkward and not-so-vaguely threatening.  He explains that there has been an attack and the air outside is contaminated.  Do we believe him, or is that just something he said so that she wouldn’t try to escape from the bunker?
There is also another man in the bunker by the name of Emmett, who seems like a good guy and believes Howard, although he thinks some of his theories of what exactly is happening are a little nuts.  Aliens?  That’s crazy.  YOU’RE crazy.

Thoughts:
I set up quite a bit in the synopsis, so let’s go off of that.
This movie moves in waves.  Michelle is our proxy.  Do we believe Howard?  Is there really something going on outside?  We find out pretty early on that there is, indeed, something contaminating the air.  So now we kind of trust Howard…right?  Maybe?  Just when I started to feel like things were going well, I began to panic because I knew it wasn’t going to be quite that easy.  And I was right.  Man, I’m smart.  Why am I so smart?

10 cloverfield - howard & michelle
I can’t really dig too deep into this movie without giving stuff away, and that would be a real shame.  There are a lot of twists and turns here that really benefit from going in relatively cold.

This is a small movie.  We basically have three characters: Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.).  With a movie this small, it’s critical that the actors all bring their A game, and they certainly did that.  All the characters were extremely well-developed and the actors knocked it out of the park.  Goodman was the standout – I’ve never seen him in a role quite like this – but Winstead and Gallagher were incredible as well.  Stellar performances from everyone.

10 cloverfield - michelle & emmettWhen Prometheus came out (which I enjoyed…shut-up) I loved how it was a movie that existed in the Alien universe, yet was a completely different story.  I never put much thought into the fact that, while these major events were happening in this movie, there were a bunch of other events happening, either before or after, that may-or-may-not be closely related.  The comic series Gotham Central does a great job with this in terms of the DC Universe.  The events of Cloverfield were not held to Manhattan, and this gives us a chance to see how other areas were affected.  It’s a great concept and terrific execution.

10 cloverfield - howardThis was a good movie.  I liked it.  Please watch it.

Rating: 5/5

Bradley Cooper is listed as being in this, but you never see him.  He’s merely the voice on the other end of the phone.  Which is perfect.  He has a face for radio.  (I kid, I kid.  You’re very handsome.  Please call me.)

The Conjuring 2: Spoilery Thoughts

I already wrote a review of The Conjuring 2, but I have some questions that would spoil the movie, so I opted to put them in a different post.  Because I am a kind soul.

conjuring 2 - valak

1. Lorraine was able to defeat the demon – Valak – by saying his name, screaming other things and condemning him back to hell.  Or something.  She only knew his name because Valak told her his name in a vision.  “I know his name, I know his name, GIVE ME MY BIBLE WHERE I CARVED HIS NAME,” she screamed.
So…why did Valak tell her his name?  They had no leads on the demon.  The only way they could have defeated him was by knowing his name, and he told Lorraine his name.  This wasn’t a case of finding out the name then needing to travel to some distant location to find more information and using it against him.  This was none of that.  This was a case of, “I say his name and he disappears.”  Valak had one weakness: that someone – anyone – speak his name.  And he handed them that weapon for no reason whatsoever.
I don’t understand why and I need someone to explain it to me.

2. Why did Janet float like Jean Grey when she was possessed at the end?

3. Why does Ed Warren have such a lovely singing voice?

conjuring 2 - ed with guitar

4 .Why do the Warrens have a teenage daughter they leave at home when they go on their missions?  Doesn’t leaving a teenager alone in a house with haunted items in the basement for weeks at a time seem like a recipe for disaster?

"There are frozen dinners in the microwave & don't worry about the whispers in the basement."
“There are frozen dinners in the microwave & don’t worry about the whispers in the basement.”

5. The idea of Valak using other creepy things as a way to throw everyone off was pretty crafty.  Who cares about looking for Valak if everyone is concerned about Bill Wilkins and The Crooked Man?  That’s a nice bit of misdirection there, Valak.  Good for you.

conjuring 2 - crooked man

The Conjuring 2: Movie Review

conjuring 2 - poster

Synopsis:
Based on the Enfield Poltergeist case, one of the more famous hauntings in British history.  An adorable little British family is being haunted by a demon, and one of them is possessed.  Whatever are they to do?  Good thing the Warrens are on the case!

WARREN POWER!
“The power of ED WARREN compels you!”

Thoughts:
I’ll admit to being hesitant about this movie.  I enjoyed the first one a decent amount, but the trailers for this movie looked terrible.  I actually laughed out loud at a couple of points, although maybe that says more about me than the trailer.  “A room full of upside crosses?  HILARIOUS!”  I am not well.

"The little girl is terrified!  Stop! Stop! My sides!"
“The little girl is terrified! Stop! Stop! My sides!”

To my surprise, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit.  Well…I enjoyed about 60% of it.  The story with the Hodgson family was terrific.  The characters were well-drawn and easy to love – the little British boy offering his mom biscuits to help her through a stressful time melted my cold, dead heart – and the haunting/possession stuff was scary.  I cared about that family.  I didn’t like that Janet – sweet Janet – was being possessed by an old man.  You leave Janet alone, Mr. Wilkins.

conjuring 2 - janet possessed
That stuff was great.  The other 40% was filled with the Warrens.  You want me to say it?  Fine, I’ll say it.  It was too much of the Warrens.  And it wasn’t just about the Warrens in general: it was about how great they are.  How true their intentions are.  That Ed, isn’t he great?  He’s the best.  Look at him sing an entire Elvis song to these fatherless children.  Look how handsome and caring he is.  Look at him fix up that house.  “Lemme roll up my sleeves and fix everything in your house while getting rid of a demon.  Save your money: my payment is in a job well done and a demon-free house.”
At one point he says, “There have been cases we’ve turned down; there has never been a family we have refused to help.”  What a guy!  I’m surprised the movie didn’t end with him adopting all of the homeless children in the city.  “Come live with me!  I’ll cook breakfast for you every day in a suit!”

"I see the problem. Your husband left you. Ha! Seriously though, your pipes are all messed up."
“I see the problem. Your husband left you. Ha! Seriously though, your pipes are all messed up.”

I know why they did this: they’re working on a franchise here, and the thing that links all the movies together is the Warrens.  It’s not a bad concept, as every movie gets a totally different case with a totally different family.  So they need us to like and root for the Warrens.  But we don’t need them to be this much in the foreground.

"Ohhhh.  Myyyyyy looooove..."
“Ohhhh. Myyyyyy looooove…”

There were two plots in this movie: we had the Enfield case, but we also had Lorraine seeing a vision of Ed’s death and being scared by it.  So we get a creepy scene of Janet talking to a shadow, then we get Lorraine saying, “I don’t think we should go, Ed.  It’s too dangerous.”  For, like, 20 minutes.  They basically took two movies and smashed them together.  Whenever they showed the family, I loved it.  Whenever they focused on the Warrens, my interest began to wane.

The sweater didn't help anything.
The sweater didn’t help anything.

This movie was two hours and 14 minutes long.  Even then, they had to rush through the third act just to bring the story to its conclusion.  The leaps in logic that took place over the last 15 minutes were astounding.  Lorraine was spouting exposition like a crazy person.  “The demon is this and this and this is how we know this and that and this and DEMONS AND VISIONS.”  They could have cut out 45 minutes of the Warrens and built in some of that exposition naturally, instead of having it shouted at us from the back of a station wagon (I think the license plate on the station wagon was INFODMP).  Or keep it, cut out 45 minutes of the Warrens and have the movie clock in at 90 minutes.  Either one of those options would have been fine.

conjuring 2 - familyWhen I liked this movie, I really liked it.  But there was too much “look how great the Warrens are, I certainly hope Ed doesn’t die,” that really killed the momentum for my liking.  I still recommend watching it, but be prepared to be tossed between two completely different stories for large portions of the movie.

Rating: 3.5/5

conjuring 2 - nunSPOILER ALERT
For most of the movie, Lorraine is terrified of Ed dying.  It’s the drama driving their story.  Meanwhile, if you know anything about the Warrens you know that Ed lived to be 79 years old and died surrounded by his family.  He certainly wasn’t impaled on a tree in Enfield.
END SPOILER

Thoughts on Independence Day: Resurgence

Alien invaders count as horror, right?
I thought so.
Here are a handful of random thoughts about Independence Day: Resurgence.

id4 - city

1. Brent Spiner is a perfectly fine actor, but Dr. Okun was entirely too prominent in this movie.  The first Independence Day was the perfectly amount of Okun: get in, say some awkward things for laughs, have an alien tentacle wrapped around his neck and get out.
For this movie, it was almost like someone said, “Hey, what if we did that but for, like, half the movie?”  Okun is a good character in moderation.  “Moderation” is the exact opposite of what we got here.

id4 - spiner

2. Maika Monroe is great, isn’t she?  Man, she’s great.  I know there was an uproar over the fact that Mae Whitman wasn’t offered the chance to reprise her role from the original, but that doesn’t change the fact that Maika Monroe is great.  (For the record, Mae Whitman is also great.)
So here comes Monroe, stepping into the role of Patricia Whitmore to offer…nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  It ‘s not Monroe’s fault: it was a terrible, shallow character.  The few times Monroe was asked to really “bring it,” she did exactly that, only to see others not return the favor (or for the script to completely fail) and for those scenes to fall flat.

id4 - monroe

3. There was a subplot where Julius Levinson – the great Judd Hirsch – drives towards Area 51 with a schoolbus full of children.  I am very much looking forward to a spin-off in the vein of Cheaper By The Dozen.

Pictured: Julius with all his children
Pictured: Julius with all his children

4.  There were too many characters to really care about any of them.  Our “new blood” was comprised of 5 characters: Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), Rain Lao (Angelababy) and Charlie Miller (Travis Trope).  That is entirely too many people to care about, especially when most of them are just empty husks.  They could have cut 3 of the characters and allowed us to form a stronger bond with the remaining 2: Patricia and Dylan.

5. It’s not Jessie T. Usher’s fault, but he was playing the role of Steven Hiller’s son and showed exactly zero of the charisma of Will Smith’s Hiller.  I say it’s not his fault, only because there are very few people who have the kind of easy charisma that Will Smith has.
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that Dylan is Steven’s stepchild, so maybe that explains it.

I never said he didn't have smoldering eyes, though.
I never said he didn’t have smoldering eyes, though.

6. Liam Hemsworth is a very handsome man, but he is not a very good actor.

Not pictured: acting.
Not pictured: acting.

7. There is a great part at the beginning with an African tribe who hunted the aliens who crash-landed at the end of the first movie.  The tribe killed hundreds of aliens.  We spend a good bit of time with their leader, Dikembe Umbutu, who killed them with a set of machetes.  “You have to get them from behind,” he says.  He’s the best.
So what does he do for the majority of the movie?  He basically plays second-fiddle to a bumbling, comic-relief IRS stooge named Floyd.  I hated Floyd.  I hate Floyd so much.

id4 - dikembe

8. When in its case, the alien orb looked like The Matrix of Leadership from Transformers: The Movie.

id4 - matrix of leadership

9. What happened to Constance Spano (David Levinson’s ex-wife)?  Their relationship was a story throughout the original movie, and there is absolutely no reference to her here.  Not only is there no reference, but apparently Levinson has had a series of relationships over the past twenty years, including one such instance with Charlotte Gainsbourg (or her character or whatever).  I would have been happy with a simple comment.  Instead we got nothing.
An aside: I like Charlotte Gainsbourg (mainly her music), but, given her film roles (most notably Antichrist and Nymphomaniac), this movie seems like an odd choice for her.

10. On the Memorial Wall, the name “Russell Casse” can be seen, and a single tear rolled down my cheek.  When this comes out on Blu Ray, I’m going to pause that scene and see if I recognize any other names.

All of these thoughts (except the last one) are negative.  Independence Day: Resurgence is by no means a good movie, but it’s not a terrible one.  Sure, there are too many characters and that causes the movie to drag in parts.  But the action sequences were all tremendous and there were a lot of cool ideas (like, A LOT of cool ideas).  This felt like a movie that bit off more than it could chew: it had to fill in the gaps of what happened in the past 20 years, introduce a bunch of new characters, have the aliens return and set up a couple huge showdowns with said aliens.
I went to the theater and saw this as a double-feature with the original Independence Day.  Watching them back-to-back like that – along with the natural hype that comes with a 20 year delay – probably made this movie feel a little more disappointing than it actually was.  Again, this wasn’t a terrible movie: I think I just had my expectations set a bit too high.  I do think a couple changes would have made for a vast improvement (less Okun and fewer characters/storylines, mainly), but it still seems like a perfectly fine – if flawed – movie.  It’s tough to live up to the first Independence Day (some janky green screen aside, it still holds up and I still love it dearly), but this is still a movie I can see myself rewatching quite a bit.  I gotsta see that rampaging queen as much as possible, ya know?

id4 - queen 2

Two more thoughts, because I like to end on a positive note:

1. Jeff Goldblum is still a handsome man.

id4 - goldblum

2. William Fichtner is in this and he’s awesome.  William Fichtner is always awesome.

id4 - general