MOVIE REVIEW: The Conjuring 2 (2016)

“The Conjuring 2” Review
Written and Directed by James Wan

Three years after the first film’s inception, The Conjuring 2 arrives with a fresh new face. A Marilyn Manson, demon general kind of face. And if you think the first one was scary…

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprises their roles as professional demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, permanently cementing their reputation as scream king and queen (with Patrick in the starring role of Insidious, which incidentally is also directed by James Wan, and Vera in Orphan, you can see it’s becoming a trend).

The film begins with a glimpse of the Warrens’ most notorious paranormal investigation to date: the Amityville  Haunting. Since Lorraine is the clairvoyant one, she gets herself into a trance to enter the realm beyond our world. And the vision she sees is not too jolly.

James Wan, a director so well versed in the subtle art of making your sleep less peaceful, wanted the film to have a connection to Amityville regardless of the limitations due to film rights. Set in 1977, our power couple is tasked to investigate an occurrence east of the Atlantic, two years after the Amityville case. The Warrens are called in to look into a seemingly supernatural disturbance in Enfield, where Peggy Hodgson’s (Frances O’Connor) youngest daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) seem to be troubled by an entity unknown to them all. 

As usual, typical horror flicks try to associate themselves to a supposedly real event to make the story even more compelling, but Wan made sure the material he was making is still something that’ll show the creativity of him and his writing team. If the real events that occurred in Enfield involved a poltergeist, Wan introduces a rock star, another face (reminiscent of his film Insidious’ Red Demon) to remember during cold nights alone, when the nights are out. This new demon, as it turns out, is some hotshot back in hell, and powerful enough to push the Warrens  to the very limits of their faith and abilities. One other special mention is The Crooked Man, an entity created by the demon that’s based of a nursery rhyme. If you think that’s tame, just wait until the film’s cinematography transform everything he is into something more horrifyingly spectacular. Macabre at its finest.

Speaking of faith, Wan carries on the presentation of Ed and Lorraine warren as not psychics with special powers, or a simple obsession to the supernatural, but a couple bound and obligated by their relentless faith to help other people rid themselves from the influence of dark forces. With a crucifix necklace and a bible in tow, the Warrens go ahead and proclaim the love  of Jesus Christ, which apparently makes even the most hardcore of demons sick in the face, condemning them back to hell where they came from. Sweet.

The Conjuring 2 has made itself a classic by proving that some old tricks of the trade can be made new and refreshed, and that making sure you cast the right actors is the best investment you can ever make in a film. Well, besides an excellent writing team. Wilson and Vermiga’s chemistry is impeccable, and if there ever will be a sequel, I still expect them to deliver.

‘Ben-Hur’s’ Jack Huston wins Rising Star of the Year Award

Jack Huston, who will be seen this August in Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ Ben-Hur, received this year’s “CinemaCon® Rising Star of the Year Award.”

Huston was presented with this special honor at the “CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards” ceremony held recently at The Colosseum, Caesars Palace. CinemaCon is the official convention of The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO).

“Already known throughout the world for his compelling performance in the critically acclaimed ‘Boardwalk Empire’, Huston is poised to break out on the big screen with his upcoming performance in this summer’s Ben Hur,” noted CinemaCon Managing Director Mitch Neuhauser. “The Huston family legacy is cherished in our industry, and it is a great honor for CinemaCon to be able to recognize Jack as he embarks on what we know is going to be a great career on the big screen.”

Ben-Hur is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer in the Roman army. Stripped of his title and separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into slavery. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption.

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The film is based on Lew Wallace’s timeless novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ and also stars Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer, Pilou Asbaek, Sofia Black D’Elia and Morgan Freeman. Produced by Sean Daniel, p.g.a., Joni Levin, p.g.a. and Duncan Henderson, p.g.a.. Screenplay by Keith Clarke and John Ridley. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov.

Best known for his portrayal of the deeply troubled and complex war veteran ‘Richard Harrow’ on HBO’s hit series Boardwalk Empire, Huston began his career starring in the small screen adaption of Spartacus. Most recently he was seen in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Longest Ride and American Hustle. Other credits across film and television include Wilde Salome, Outlander, Kill Your Darlings, Factory Girl, Not Fade Away, Two Jacks, and Night Train to Lisbon. On stage, Huston played Charles Bruno in Strangers on a Train at London’s Gielgud Theatre.

Opening across the Philippines on August 17, Ben-Hur is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

WATCH: Tom Cruise makes a comeback in ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ trailer

Tom Cruise returns as best-selling author Lee Child‘s one-man vigilante in the just-released action-packed trailer for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

The follow-up to 2012’s Jack Reacher finds the titular character returning to his roots, uncovering duplicitous officials and people of power, until he discovers that the women chosen to take over his role as head of the MP (Cobie Smulders), has been arrested for espionage.

Directed by Ed Zwick (The Last Samurai), Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is written by Marshall Herskovitz and Zwick. The supporting cast includes Aldis Hodge, Holt McCallany, and Robert Knepper.

Opening across the Philippines in October 2016, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

‘Fantastic Beasts’ featurette introduces Newt Scamander

For its upcoming adventure Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Warner Bros. Pictures has just shared a new featurette titled “Newt Scamander: A New Hero for a New Era of Magic.”

In this featurette, we learn more about Scamander and his personality. We also learn a bit about how the magical world operates in North America, specifically with regards to interactions between wizards and muggles (or as they’re called in America, “no-maj”).

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an all-new adventure returning us to the wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne stars in the central role of wizarding world magizoologist Newt Scamander, under the direction of David Yates, who helmed the last four “Harry Potter” blockbusters.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens in 1926 as Newt Scamander has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident … were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

The movie also stars Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs) as Tina; Tony Award winner Dan Fogler (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as Jacob; Alison Sudol (Transparent) as Tina’s sister, Queenie; Ezra Miller (Trainwreck) as Credence; two-time Oscar nominee Samantha Morton (In America) as Mary Lou; Oscar winner Jon Voight (TV’s “Ray Donovan”) as Henry Shaw, Sr.; Ron Perlman (the Hellboy films) as Gnarlack; Carmen Ejogo (Selma) as Seraphina; Jenn Murray (Brooklyn) as Chastity; young newcomer Faith Wood-Blagrove as Modesty; and Colin Farrell (True Detective) as Percival Graves.

The film marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, whose beloved “Harry Potter” books were adapted into the top-grossing film franchise of all time. Her script was inspired by the Hogwarts textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” written by her character Newt Scamander.

Warner Bros. Pictures has slated Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for a Philippine release in 2D and 3D in select theatres and IMAX on November 17, 2016.

Meet Hank, Dory’s cranky new friend in ‘Finding Dory’

In Disney-Pixar’s Finding Dory, Dory, Marlin and Nemo embark on a new adventure—this time to the California coastline—on an uncertain search for the family Dory thinks she left behind. Their journey leads them to the Marine Life Institute (MLI), where they meet a diverse array of sea creatures.

In the journey to the MLI, Dory finds herself separated from Marlin and Nemo, and must rely on her own intuition—as well as a host of colorful characters, appealing to each of them to help her on her quest. Foremost of them is Hank, a disgruntled octopus voiced by “Modern Family’s” Ed O’Neill, who was tapped to bring Dory’s chief wingman to life. “He doesn’t like anybody and just wants to be left alone,” O’Neill shares.

“We realized that Dory needed a foil,” says director Andrew Stanton. “Dory was created in the first movie as a surrogate for Nemo. Marlin’s emotional journey to be a better parent called for a character like Dory to test him. Kids—and Dory—are very in the moment; they don’t think about the future too much. They take risks and have fun.

“For this film,” Stanton continues, “we needed a surrogate Marlin. Hank is a curmudgeon, an introvert. He really doesn’t want to be healed and sent back out to the ocean. He’d prefer a solitary existence inside an aquarium tank, so he’s trying to get himself into a more permanent installation.”

“Hank is smart, set in his ways and very cranky,” says Ellen DeGeneres, the voice of Dory. “He’s not happy where he is, while Dory is always happy wherever she is. There’s a great juxtaposition between these two; they’re complete opposites. It’s a great pairing because she is so innocent, yet pushes him to open his mind. They’re both fearful—though Dory doesn’t realize it. She just keeps swimming.”

Hank is actually a “septopus”: he lost a tentacle—along with his sense of humor—somewhere along the way. But Hank is just as competent as his eight-armed peers. An accomplished escape artist with camouflaging capabilities to boot, Hank is the first to greet Dory when she finds herself in the Marine Life Institute. But make no mistake: he’s not looking for a friend. Hank is after one thing: a ticket on a transport truck to a cozy Cleveland facility, where he’ll be able to enjoy a peaceful life of solitude.

“Hank tests Dory,” says Stanton. “He questions her optimism, her bravery. He brings out the best in her, and she does the same for him. He’s reluctantly kind. He has a heart of gold that Dory seems to sense from the start.”

Filmmakers deliberately developed Hank’s personality to contrast Dory’s bright disposition. “We can get a lot of comedy out of pairing opposites,” says co-director Angus MacLane. “Hank is actively trying to get away from connection, while Dory is striving to make one.”

“Hank would be happy living out his days in a secure aquarium all by himself,” says Max Brace, story supervisor for the film. “He’d do anything to avoid going back to the ocean—even if it means escorting Dory through the Marine Life Institute.”

“They need each other,” says O’Neill. “Hank never thought he could make friends, but he’s slowly drawn in by Dory’s charm. Through a lot of adventure, danger and fear, they bond. They become friends through their experiences.”
Stanton says O’Neill captured the character perfectly. “His voice carries that duality of curmudgeon and softie,” says the director. “Ed nailed that in one way in ‘Married with Children’ and an entirely different way in ‘Modern Family.’ We never thought of anybody else.”

O’Neill, who voiced a character in Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph,” says the key is having an open mind. “There isn’t really a way to prepare for animation,” he says. “I did do one thing: I Googled ‘mimic octopus’ and found this creature I didn’t even know existed. There are several different types of octopus, I learned. The one I’m playing is a shape-shifter. It’s crazy.”

Finding Dory is still showing in cinemas nationwide. It is distributed in the Philippines by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures. 

‘Percy Jackson’ director Chris Columbus produces ‘The Young Messiah’

At the heels of blockbuster movies from Chris Columbus such as Gremlins, Home Alone 1 & 2, Mrs. Doubtfire, Percy Jackson films and the Harry Potter franchise is the faith-based epic The Young Messiah which he produced under the direction of Cyrus Nowrasteh.

Columbus once again demonstrates his acumen for nurturing and cultivating young talents in “The Young Messiah,” replicating his feat from the highly successful “Harry Potter” franchise by casting then unknown talents such as Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in lead roles. Columbus now brings the young Adam Greaves-Neal at the center of “The Young Messiah” as the child Jesus along with an impressive supporting cast that includes Sean Bean, Sara Lazarro, Vincent Walsh, Clive Russell, Jonathan Bailey and Christian McKay.

“The Young Messiah” is based from Anne Rice’s novel “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt” where the author imagines a year (7th) in the life of the young Jesus. In the movie, Jesus’ parents, Mary (Lazarro) and Joseph (Walsh) are seen bearing the responsibility of raising the Son of God. Rice, in her Facebook page previously revealed that she was brought to tears upon seeing film for the first time further stating that “I support it with all my heart. The writing, the directing, the cast are an author’s dream of fidelity to the spirit of the book and book’s concerns for biblical and historical accuracy. I’m so happy to share this.”

The inspiring story of Jesus as a young boy in “The Young Messiah” sees Greaves-Neal as Jesus embarking on a journey from Egypt to Nazareth after he miraculously brings someone back to life. When King Herod (Bailey) orders the death of the child, Roman centurion Severus (Bean) is tasked to find the family across the desert. Young Jesus then turns to his parents for answers as he grapples to understand His own divinity. But how do they explain God to his own son as they worry about his safety at the same time?

“This movie really hangs on a young child,” says Nowrasteh on casting Adam. The director decided to send Columbus a tape of Adam along with tapes of other boys that they were considering for the lead role and Columbus’ response was immediate, “He said that no one else came close to Adam.”

Adam, just nine years old at that time, naturally took on the role without feeling overwhelmed. “I just think, I’m a boy that can do great and surprising things,” he shared on how he tried to play the role.

Sean Bean in turn says that his character is also of importance to the story. “He sees Jesus and his family, he’s out and about on the streets and city all the time, and then he answers to Herod, who sits there on his throne surrounded by concubines and debauchery. Eventually, he has a big change of heart when he decided who he can be loyal to. And that’s to Jesus ultimately. You could say he’s the first convert to Christianity, he epitomizes that.”

“There’s a huge audience for faith-based films and this is the original story of one of the greatest people to have ever lived,” concludes producer Chris Columbus.

Discover a year in Jesus’ childhood in “The Young Messiah” when it opens in Philippine cinemas on June 29, 2016 to be released by Pioneer Films.

‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ reunites star-studded cast

The colorful characters inhabiting Underland in Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass” are brought back to life by the all-star cast from the original “Alice in Wonderland.”

In “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” an all-new spectacular adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories, Alice returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter.

Johnny Depp (the Pirates of the Caribbean films) returns as Hatter Tarrant Hightopp, better known as the Mad Hatter, whom Alice finds more mad than usual upon her return to Underland. Desperate to find out what has happened to his family, he is out of his mind with grief when Alice first arrives.

Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Devil Wears Prada) is back as Mirana, the mild mannered and kind White Queen and beautiful younger sister to the spiteful Red Queen. “One of the things I was excited about exploring in this film was the notion that Mirana is not all that perfect. She has some of her sister’s darkness in her veins but she keeps it very repressed,” says Hathaway. “We learn that while she is still on the good side, there is a lot more going on then we first realized.”

alice through the looking glass deppAlice Through the Looking Glass

Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak) is Alice Kingsleigh, the head-strong young woman raised in Victorian London who is a dreamer and a non-conformist. Now on the cusp of adulthood, she continues to struggle with balancing her inherent curiosity and conforming to other people’s expectations. “Alice is a great character because she’s very much her own person, and after returning from her travels where she was captain of her own ship has gained more confidence and is filled with a sense of inspiration and excitement,” says Wasikowska.

Iracebeth, the short-tempered Red Queen and former monarch of Underland who despises her younger sibling, Mirana, is played once again by Helena Bonham Carter (Cinderella) and Matt Lucas (Paddington) is back as the voices of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the tubby twin brothers who are childish and bicker constantly.

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Joining the cast are Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man) as Zanik Hightopp, the Mad Hatter’s conservative father, who holds his son to impossibly-high standards and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) as the entity Time.

Alan Rickman (the Harry Potter films) returns as the voice of Absolem, the former blue caterpillar who is all-knowing and just a little pompous. Stephen Fry (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) once again provides the voice of Chessur, the Cheshire Cat, the cunning feline who is prone to grinning and disappearing. Michael Sheen (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2) is back as the voice of McTwisp, the White Rabbit, who continues to be preoccupied with punctuality.

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Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner) once again provides the voice of Bayard, the giant bloodhound who previously served under the Red Queen but is now an ally to Alice and her friends. Barbara Windsor (East Enders) returns as the voice of the fiercely loyal Dormouse, Mallymkun. Paul Whitehouse (Mortdecai) is back as the voice of Thackery, the anxious and tempermental March Hare who hosts the Hatter’s tea parties. Joining them is Matt Vogel (Muppets Most Wanted) as Wilkins, Time’s right-hand man. Wilkins keeps all the clocks in Times’ castle in working order and helps create a make-shift time machine to chase Alice across the ocean of time.

Opening in Philippine cinemas on July 6, 2016, Alice Through the Looking Glass is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.