“Have They Heard Her Crying? Have They Felt The Sting Of Her Tears? They Will, And She Will Come For Them…”
Winning the award for most unpronounceable title of the year so far, The Conjuring universe returns once again to the big screen like a distressed, lost puppy eager for ticket sales with The Curse of La Llorona, a ridiculously silly and scare-free cinematic cliche which attempts to build on the Mexican folklore of the same name. Produced by franchise stalwart, James Wan, and directed by American filmmaker, Michael Chaves, in his big screen debut after a succession of short films, La Llorona sees the usually reliable Linda Cardellini (Green Book) as Mexican-born social care worker, Anna, who after investigating the disappearance of a past client’s two young children, falls under the murderous spell of the titular “weeping woman”, a CGI heavy, poorly designed spectre who soon takes a liking to her two young children still reeling from the death of their father. Whilst audiences and critics alike are now totally clued up in regards to what to expect from a franchise as unreliable and uninspiring as the one in which La Llorona sits, one has to take some form of nostalgia by remembering just how darn good both The Conjuring and The Conjuring Two actually were, but with the likes of Annabelle and The Nun clearly showing how such a series may have stretched a point slightly too far, Chaves’ debut unsurprisingly nestles nicely with the latter as it fails to ignite any sense of intrigue whatsoever.
Beginning in familiar horror movie fashion by attempting to rationalise the decision behind the main antagonist’s desire for death, La Llorona soons falls into the trap of offering up cliche after cliche as the primary threat is harnessed through endless jump scares, a tactic of which doesn’t exactly pay off as such well versed genre tropes come across as neither surprising or in any way scary, resulting in heavy sighs every time the sound system in the cinema gets a good old test run as we are mistreated to cranked up violins or the endless wailing of our titular ghostie. With the film falling into the Sinister trap by showing way too much way too soon in regards to the evil at the heart of the drama come the hour mark, the film also soon loses all sense of originality completely, resorting to repetitive, dull and thoroughly uninteresting set pieces which all seem to be designed in order to justify the ninety minute runtime, but with no sense of threat or dread at all as it plays towards a very middling and family friendly conclusion, the scariest part of The Curse of La Llorona is that such a film was actually made in the first place.
Overall Score: 4/10
“You Never Win With Violence. You Only Win When You Maintain Your Dignity…”
Arriving in the United Kingdom just in time for the Academy Awards later in the month, the multi nominated drama, Green Book, comes forth with an abundance of critical pleasantries and expectation that amongst the likes of A Star is Born and Roma, the small, independent latest from the director of Shallow Hal and erm, Dumb and Dumber To may pip such works of excellence to the post of walking away with Best Picture. Based on the true life relationship between African-American jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and the Italian-American streetwise bouncer, Tony Vallelonga, Green Book is a quaint, engaging and highly entertaining dramatic crowd-pleaser which floats gently across the line between saccharin and sweet as it blends together two opposing figures of 1960’s America with enough charm and interesting underlying subplots to gloss over a story which many audiences have already seen before. With many declaring Green Book as essentially a contemporary adaptation of Driving Miss Daisy, albeit with a particular twist regarding the ethnicity of both driver and passenger, Peter Farrelly’s latest shines brightest when left in the company of the film’s leading stars, with both Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) both providing stand out performances worthy of their recognition from this year’s Oscars, and whilst Green Book as a whole fails to match the excellence of its’ brothers in the field of Best Picture, the particular parts which do happen to shine brightest are indeed worthy of taking the time to seek out and admire.
With the movie opening with Mortensen’s Vallelonga, the work dependant, cocky hustler burdened with the apt nickname of “Tony Lip” due to his almost joyous penchant for saying things as he sees them, the screenplay concocted from a combination of Farrelly, Brian Currie and Tony’s son, Nick Vallelonga, allows the first act of the movie to swiftly play out with a fun sense of purpose as we bear witness to Tony’s alarming appetite for food, his ever-expanding family and his reluctant on-off relationship with the local crime gangs. Seeking gainful employment after being predisposed from his work as a bouncer, Tony falls upon the graces of Ali’s Don Shirley, a majestically cultured and wonderfully talented pianist who enlists the services of Tony as he makes his way into the deep South in order to fulfill his promise of a musical tour. As the screenplay moves into an almost road movie-esque sensibility, it is here where the comedic element of Farrelly really shines, with gorgeous interplay between both Tony and Shirley resulting in some genuinely memorable and laugh-out loud set pieces as we gradually see the differences between both both come together in a clear synchronisation of loving friendship. Whilst the clear racial undertones of the piece begin interesting and poignant, the repetitive nature of such a notion does become slightly tiresome come the end, with Green Book undoubtedly the type of movie where the nuanced approach fits the mood of the piece better than the show-stopping, award seeking monologues which the trailers are filled with, but with two really superb central performances from reliable and watchable actors with a clear admiration for the script, Green Book is a really heartwarming slice of drama, just served with extra cheese.
Overall Score: 7/10
“This Year It’s No More Back And Forth At Christmas. It’s A Together Christmas..!”
With 2015’s Daddy’s Home being one of the few cinematic releases which managed to simply pass me by without me having the chance, time or perhaps the need to catch up and review it, the release of it’s inevitable sequel after the comedy hit became Will Ferrell’s highest grossing live action film to date brings with it a sense of heavy duty dread, particularly when reminiscing the more contemporary Ferrell releases such as The House and Zoolander 2, and whilst it requires quite an extensive amount in the American comedy genre to actually impress me, who would have thought that a Christmas themed sequel to a film which never really was asking for a continuation in the first place was actually somewhat quite good fun? With Mel Gibson and John Lithgow added to the cast as the fathers of Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty and Ferrell’s Brad respectively, Daddy’s Home 2 is a surprisingly sharp and witty sequel which although suffers from a overly formulaic plot, some interesting narrative swings and a completely saccharin sweet ending which nearly resulted in me chucking up into the nearest popcorn box, is throwaway comedy trash of the cheesiest order which just happens to be quite enjoyable.
With a script which ironically mirrors the Bad Moms Christmas approach by utilising the added input of an older generation to the plot and therefore the inclusion of much more acting talent, the inclusion of both Gibson and Lithgow does strangely work, with the latter using all his musky, outdated charm and guile to interfere with the family arrangements, and the latter’s penchant for cringe-laden conversations and weirdly intimate family relations managing to balance the widely cliched characterisation of pretty much everyone from child to elder. With rib-tickling set pieces managing to win me over from the start and Wahlberg being undeniably the star of the show, Daddy’s Home 2 does falter in an over-reliance on weak slapstick more times than necessary, whilst the inclusion of a strangely ill-judged gun scene is somewhat muddled in its’ execution, particularly when contemplating recent events in the US. Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t perfect, but nobody heading in was expecting It’s A Wonderful Life, and whilst some may feel the need to slate it’s cocksure and rather unsteady cinematic existence, it really isn’t worth getting angry about, and with that particular mindset in check, Ferrell’s latest is just plain dumb fun.