25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE CONJURING 2

CAST
Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)
Patrick Wilson (Watchmen)
Madison Wolfe (The Campaign)
Frances O’ Connor (Bedazzled)
Franka Potente (The Bourne Identity)
Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland)
Maria Doyle Kennedy (Sing Street)
Robin Atkins Downes (Suicide Squad)
Bonnie Aarons (The Princess Diaries)
In 1976, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren document the Amityville murders at the Amityville house, to determine if a demonic presence was truly responsible for Ronald DeFeo Jr. mass murdering his family on November 13, 1974 and the subsequent haunting incident involving the Lutz family. During a seance, Lorraine is drawn into a vision where she relives the murders and discovers a demonic nun figure, before seeing Ed being fatally impaled. After a struggle, Lorraine is able to break out of the vision.
One year later, in 1977, the Hodgson family begins to discover strange occurrences within their home in London. Janet, the second oldest of four children, is seen sleepwalking and conversing in her dreams with an entity who insists that the house is his. Eventually, all siblings of the house and their mother Peggy witness paranormal events occurring right before their eyes, forcing them to seek refuge with their neighbors. When the media attempts to interview the Hodgsons, Janet is possessed by the spirit of Bill Wilkins, an older man who previously lived and died in the house, and who wants to claim his territory. As Janet begins to show more signs of demonic possession, the story eventually reaches the Warrens, who are requested to assist the local church in the investigation. Lorraine, in fear of her vision of Ed’s death becoming reality, warns him not to get too involved in the case, and reluctantly agrees to travel to London. She has yet another vision of the demonic nun in the collection room wherein the demon says its name, which Lorraine scribbles in her Bible.
While staying at the Hodgson residence, Ed and Lorraine consult with other paranormal investigators, including Maurice Grosse and Anita Gregory, on the legitimacy of the case. They also attempt to communicate with Wilkins’ spirit, hoping to talk him out of harassing the family. One night, after the Hodgsons witness Janet being possessed, Gregory presents video evidence of Janet purposely wrecking the kitchen as if for a prank. Ed and Lorraine are then convinced to leave the family on their own, but soon they discover that the spirit of Wilkins is only a pawn, being manipulated to haunt Janet, while the true mastermind is the demonic spirit that has been haunting Lorraine in her visions.
Ed and Lorraine return to the Hodgson residence, only to find Janet being possessed once more and the rest of the Hodgsons locked outside the house. A lightning strike hits a tree near the house, leaving a jagged stump resembling the object that impaled Ed in Lorraine’s vision. Ed ventures inside the house alone, and finds Janet standing near the window, ready to leap onto the stump and commit suicide. He manages to grab Janet in time, but finds himself holding onto a curtain that is being torn from its rings by his and Janet’s weight. Lorraine remembers that she wrote the demon’s name – Valak – in her Bible. She enters the house and confronts Valak, addressing it by name and successfully condemning it back to Hell. Janet is freed of her possession, and Lorraine pulls her and Ed to safety.
A text epilogue reveals that Peggy lived the rest of her life in that house and died in 2003, sitting in the same spot in which Wilkins had died 40 years earlier. Upon returning home, Ed adds an item to his and Lorraine’s collection – “The Crooked Man” zoetrope toy owned by Peggy’s youngest child – placing it near April’s music box and the Annabelle doll. The couple then dance to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley.
The Conjuring 2 is as strong as the first. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first, or indeed likes haunting films.

REVIEW: BEDAZZLED (2000)

CAST

Brendan Fraser (The Mummy)
Elizabeth Hurley (Austin Powers)
Frances O’Connor (The Conuring 2)
Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow)
Paul Adelstein (Scandal)
Toby Huss (Jerry Maguire)
Brian Doyle-Murray (Groundhog Day)
Rudolf Martin (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Jeff Doucette (Splash)

The opening sequence takes the form of a computer simulation run by the Devil to analyze souls and determine individual weaknesses to exploit and corrupt. The program finally settles on Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser), a geeky, over-zealous man working a dead-end technical support job in a San Francisco computer company. He has no friends and his co-workers are always avoiding him. He has a crush on his colleague, Alison Gardner (Frances O’Connor), but lacks the courage to ask her out. After Elliot is again ditched by his co-workers at a bar while trying to talk to Alison, he says to himself that he would give anything for Alison to be with him. The Devil, in the form of a beautiful woman (Elizabeth Hurley), overhears him and offers to give Elliot seven wishes in return for his soul.
As a test, he wishes for a Big Mac and Coke. The Devil takes him to McDonald’s and places the order. Elliot has to pay for it, because, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” After taking Elliot to her office, based at a nightclub in Oakland, the Devil convinces Elliot to sign her contract, and delivers further wishes. Each wish has Elliot living them out with Alison and his co-workers in surrogate roles. However, he doesn’t know that the Devil will always spoil his wishes by adding something he doesn’t want. Elliot wishes to be rich and powerful, with Alison as his wife. The Devil makes him a Colombian drug lord whose wife despises him and cheats on him with Raoul, his co-worker, who is secretly planning to get rid of Elliot and take his position and property. Soon after there is a firefight between his and Raoul’s people where Elliot “dies”. When he returns to the real world, the Devil points out that he never wished for Alison to love him.
Secondly, Elliot wishes to be emotionally sensitive so he will understand the needs and desires of women. The Devil makes him so sensitive that he spends most of his time crying over how beautiful the world is, and constantly asks Alison, his girlfriend of “three magical weeks,” whether he has hurt her or if she needs anything. Alison says she has had enough of it and wants to be with a man who is strong and shallow. She then leaves Elliot for a man who is strong, rude and completely different from the romantic and emotionally sensitive Elliot. Elliot then wishes to be a superstar athlete who would be a woman magnet. The Devil makes him a cliché-spewing NBA star, but also gives him a small penis and a low IQ, which causes Alison, a sports reporter, to lose interest in him shortly after they meet.
He then wishes to be intelligent, witty and well-endowed. The Devil grants this by making him a famous writer whom Alison falls in love with at a cocktail party. When they arrive at Elliot’s home to make love it is revealed that Elliot is gay and living with a flamboyant male partner. Lastly, Elliot wishes to be President of the United States to try to improve the world and get Alison to take him seriously. The Devil makes him Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the night of his assassination which he nearly avoids. After each wish is renounced, Elliot meets with the Devil and she blames him for not being specific enough. Eventually he returns to work, thinking about what he should do with the last two wishes. The Devil then appears on the computer screen, pointing out that he only has one wish left. This is because on their first meeting he asked for a Big Mac and Coke, although she had stated that it was a test wish and granted it before Elliot signed the contract. Elliot loses his patience and storms out of his office.
Elizabeth Hurley and Brendan Fraser in Bedazzled (2000)
Elliot visits a church looking for God’s help, where he briefly confesses to a priest who seems sympathetic. However, after being asked whether he thinks asking the Devil for a Big Mac and Coke counts as a wish, the priest, believing he is drunk, has Elliot arrested. The sergeant books him, and the Devil, dressed as a police officer, throws him in a cell, telling him that she does like him, and it would not hurt to have her as a friend. Elliot’s cellmate (Gabriel Casseus) tells him that he cannot possibly sell his soul as it belongs to God, and although the Devil may try to confuse him, in the end he will realise who he truly is, and what his purpose is. Elliot questions the man as to his identity, but the response is simply “a really good friend”, hinting that he may in fact be God, or at least, an angel.
Elliot asks the Devil to cancel their contract. When the Devil refuses, Elliot states he will not use his final wish. The Devil teleports them to Hell, where she transforms first into a black horned monster, then into a giant. When the Devil pushes him to make a final wish, Elliot wishes that Alison could have a happy life – with or without him. The Devil sighs and Elliot falls into the depths of Hell. Elliot wakes up on a marble staircase, wondering if it is Heaven. The Devil tells him that because a provision in the contract’s fine print, unread by Elliot, states that a selfless wish voids the contract, Elliot keeps his soul. Elliot admits that despite her manipulation of him he has come to like the Devil and regards her as a friend, something she does not object to. She also advises that Heaven and Hell can be found on Earth; it is up to humans to choose. Elliot finally asks Alison out, only to learn that she is already dating another man. He continues with his life, but with a better understanding of who he is.
Satan & Elliott in a schoolroom
Later Elliot is confronted by Bob, one of his co-workers, who starts ridiculing Elliot at the encouragement of his co-workers. Elliot loses his temper and grabs a terrified Bob by the shirt, but lets go, simply saying, “Nice talking to you.” A threatening look sends his other co-workers scurrying away in fear. At home, he meets a new neighbor, Nicole Delarusso (also played by Frances O’Connor), whose looks resemble Alison’s, but whose personality, interests and fashion sense are much closer to his. He offers to help her unpack and they begin a relationship. While the two walk along a boulevard, the Devil and Elliot’s cellmate, both dressed in white, are seen playing chess, looking at Elliot and his new girlfriend, with the Devil taking the opportunity to fix the game but get caught by the guy, who only laughs about that. The scene ends with the Devil’s computer program listing foibles of Nicole’s and Elliot’s, which they both tolerate.
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I was pleasantly surprised. Harold Ramis wrote a new script based on the concept of the original movie, and he did a good job. Elizabeth Hurley plays a gleeful devil and amply fills out every outfit she wears; but Brendan Fraser steals the show. His acting and characterizations were outstanding. Lots of fun.

REVIEW: TIMELINE

CAST

Paul Walker (Into The Blue)
Frances O’Connor (A.I.)
Gerard Butler (300)
Billy Connolly (The Man Who Sued God)
David Thewlis (The Theory of Everything)
Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Michael Sheen (Underworld)
Marton Csokas (Xena)
Rossif Sutherland (Reign)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)

Matt Craven (Sharp Objects)
Amy Sloan (The Heartbreak Kid)

MV5BMjE5MDYzMTQ5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjUzMzE3._V1_A directorial effort from Richard Donner (“Goonies”) is an adaptation of the Michael Crichton novel, where a machine that allows items (or even people) to be faxed from one place to another. Unfortunately, instead of sending things across the room or down the street, the wormhole has sent the objects back in time – to 1357 in Castlegard, France – right before a war is about to begin. Professor Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly) is revealed to have been the test subjec”, and is stuck in the past. It’s up to his son Chris (Paul Walker), Kate Erickson (Frances O’Connor), Andre Marek (Gerard Butler), Francois Nolastnamegiven(Rossif Sutherland) and a couple of soldiers to save the professor.

I do appreciate that the film’s big action scenes seem to have been done without the aid of much in the way of effects, but with character development running so low and performances so average (not to mention dialogue being weak), it’s difficult to be that involved with any of it.

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Timeline does have a moment or two (the bigger action sequences are technically well-staged) and a several moments that are so goofy as to be entertaining, but the film’s 116-minute running time is mainly good for pondering the kind of picture that could have been if more care had been taken with casting and the screenplay.