Movie Review ~ The Nun


The Facts
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Synopsis: A priest with a haunted past and a novice on the threshold of her final vows are sent by the Vatican to investigate the death of a young nun in Romania and confront a malevolent force in the form of a demonic nun.

Stars: Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Charlotte Hope, Ingrid Bisu, Bonnie Aarons

Director: Corin Hardy

Rated: R

Running Length: 96 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (5.5/10)

Review: I have to hand it to director James Wan for going the distance with this notion of creating a universe of movies inspired by his film, The Conjuring. Starting with the lackluster Annabelle and it’s much superior prequel, Annabelle: Creation, Wan sought to expand the playing field by spinning off frightening characters introduced in his massively scary 2013 film and its 2016 sequel. With Annabelle 3 going into production soon and another offshoot based on the Crooked Man from The Conjuring 2 slowly coming together, the wheels are certainly turning in Wan’s scare factory.

A priest, a nun, and a French-Canadian walk into a haunted convent…sounds like the start of a late night joke told in a dive bar but no, that’s the premise of The Nun which is Wan’s latest bid for domination of the horror genre. While it doesn’t fall as flat as Annabelle, it doesn’t rise to the thrill level found in the other fright flicks released to date. Still…there are far worse way to scare yourself silly while paying top price ticket fees in the process.

Set in 1952, The Nun follows a priest (Demián Bichir, A Better Life) called by the Vatican to look into the suicide of a nun at a secluded convent in Romania. He’s accompanied by a novice (Taissa Farmiga, The Bling Ring) who has yet to take her final vows but possesses a talent Vatican officials feel will be useful in the investigation. It’s never fully explained (at least not to my satisfaction) just why she’s sent along for the ride but her presence helps the priest gain access into the cloistered abbey where evil is certainly playing a wicked game.

Local food delivery boy Frenchie (no, seriously) shows the two the way into the massive castle-like convent which once housed some decidedly unholy tenants. Catholic guilt is no match for Hollywood terror so check your religious piety at the door if you don’t want to be too offended by stigmata, a few naughty nun jokes, and one scene where it looks like the devil is playing a game of nun bowling. The bulk of the film follows our investigators as they are terrorized by the demon Valak (Bonnie Aarons, Silver Linings Playbook) who has taken on the terrifying visage of a nun and appears at numerous inopportune times.

The screenplay from Gary Dauberman (IT) with input from Wan (Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2) has a nice set-up for the first forty five minutes or so, finding a lighter tone and quick pacing to keep things moving. Strangely, it’s when the guests arrive at the moody monastery that reveal some peculiar twists that never find a good pay off. Over the top sequences I swore would be revealed to be dreams were actually occurring and the finale felt like too many ideas shoehorned into a quick wrap-up. As in previous films of The Conjuring Universe, there’s an effort to tie this film into later events but it hinges on you remembering a minor incident from The Conjuring.

Performances here are fairly standard with Bichir plodding through the film with conviction, even if he’s oddly given a truly been there, done that backstory involving a botched exorcism. While her sister is the star and highlight of The Conjuring films, Farmiga doesn’t quite have the same gravitas of her elder sibling. As Frenchie, Jonas Bloquet (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) feels like he walked in from a Netflix rom-com with his arched eyebrows and one-liners at the ready. If there’s one thing that truly saves the film and actually elevates it, it’s the production design and cinematography. This is one of the best looking horror films in recent memory and the 22 million dollars allocated for the budget were certainly put to good use. Its European setting reminded me more than a few times of the classic Hammer Horror films and director Corin Hardy makes the most of several ominous set pieces. Fantastic production values aside, the catacomb-y finale felt like a test run for The Nun’s guaranteed appearance at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights in 2019.

Make no doubt about it, Wan is on to something with this idea to bring all of his scary creations to life in films of their own. He’s learned from his past mistakes and is bringing in the right people to get the job done…but if this universe is to continue to thrive attention needs to be paid to all the details and not just chuck careful planning out the window in favor of a cheap-ish scare. There’s no prayer for forgiveness required from The Nun…but penance must be paid in future installments if the filmmakers don’t plot their approach better.

The Silver Bullet ~ The Nun

Synopsis: A priest is sent to Romania to investigate the mysterious death of a nun.

Release Date: September 7, 2019

Thoughts: Man, the suits at Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema are really going for this Conjuring Universe, aren’t they? After The Conjuring, there was the lackluster spin-off Annabelle which was followed by the enormously entertaining sequel, Annabelle: Creation.   Now comes The Nun which focuses on that terrifying bride of Christ who kept popping up to scare Vera Farmiga (and this critic) in The Conjuring 2.  There’s nothing particularly special about this early teaser trailer but it does give the summer movie audiences a jolt of a reminder that there’s another scary film coming up this autumn to look forward to…after Halloween, of course.

The Silver Bullet ~ The Final Girls

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Synopsis: A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.

Release Date: October 9, 2015

Thoughts: The concept of meta-horror was ushered in by Scream in 1996, spawning hundreds of imitations with diminishing results. The idea of a high concept horror film was jettisoned in favor of all out torture porn or found footage cheapies that did little to show there was any life in the fading genre.

With the revitalization of Scream as a television show on MTV and Scream Queens premiering on Fox this fall, meta-horror seems to be coming back in style so I’m interested to see where The Final Girls falls on the spectrum. Don’t get this one confused with Final Girl, another 2015 entry starring Abigail Breslin…especially confusing because both movies feature Alexander Ludwig (Lone Survivor) in a prominent role.

I’m not sure yet how this one is going to wind up – it’s either going to be a total 80s throwback gem or a stinker you want to throw back from whence it came. The rather long trailer seems to give away much of the overall joke and production values look questionable…but with a game cast featuring Malin Akerman (Rock of Ages), Adam DeVine (Pitch Perfect 2), and Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring) it’s definitely worth taking a shot on.

 

Movie Review ~ The Bling Ring

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts in order to rob their homes.

Stars: Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Georgia Rock, Gavin Rossdale

Director: Sofia Coppola

Rated: R

Running Length: 90 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  As the daughter of one of Hollywood’s most successful directors of the 70’s, Sofia Coppola began her directing career with a hat trick  of smart and stylish films that felt like they had a true voice.  The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation (for which Coppola won an Oscar for her screenplay), and Marie Antoinette couldn’t have been more different in tone but it was evident they all came from the same creative force.  Stumbling with the troubled Somewhere, Coppola took her time in choosing her next project and what may have seemed like the right choice on paper winds up being a film that comes off as hollow and vacuous as the lives of the people it chronicles.

For a few days after seeing The Bling Ring I really thought about what Coppola was going after.  Maybe I was supposed to feel empty after watching the true life tale about privileged teens in Beverly Hills that are so bored and entitled they start to break into the homes of the rich and famous stars that line the Hollywood Hills.  Showing little remorse along the way, these thieves read up on the gossip blogs to see who will be out of town and then simply Google the address and get ready to line their pockets and backs with the luxurious clothing and jewelry they find within.

At a scant 90 minutes, the movie doesn’t exactly have a lot of ground to cover because the majority of the running length is just burglaries repeated over and over again.  To be fair, the movie starts with some nice Coppola touches of bright colors and interesting camera angles…but soon the material gets away from her and instead of positioning the arc of her film toward a certain intent she instead lets the movie run straight down the middle with very little creativity.

The lack of depth shown is frustrating but again…is that what the movie is all about?  The profound lack of worth and value started to upset my stomach after a while and had Coppola given the movie even the slightest bit of edge it could have nudged the experience into the wicked satire I think it could (and wants to ) be.

It’s hard to single out who the star of the film is.  I’d say it’s newcomer Katie Chang as the scheming ringleader of the group and while it becomes fuzzy at times whether Chang plays bland to perfection or if she’s just not in on the joke I was always interested to see what she’d do next.  Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, This Is The End) gets the best of the biting comedy bits but unfortunately still hasn’t mastered her American accent.  This makes most of her delivery funny but not the homerun Coppola probably intended.

No great cinematic fete/feast, The Bling Ring is the kind of meal that I’m sure many of the burgled starlets probably enjoy…light and forgettable with all the sauce and cheese on the side. 

 

The Silver Bullet ~ The Bling Ring

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Synopsis: Inspired by actual events, a group of fame-obsessed teenagers use the internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts in order to rob their homes.

Release Date:  June 14, 2013

Thoughts: Sofia Coppola had a nice hat trick of films in the last decade with The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation (with a screenplay that won her an Oscar) and Marie Antoinette.  Then she stumbled a bit with the jumbled Somewhere so it’s anyone’s guess where The Bling Ring will wind up.  I must admit the inspired by a true story angle piques my curiosity, especially because Coppola seems so observant when examining relationships between the notable and not quite noticed.  Emma Watson made a great post Harry Potter choice with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, let’s see if she continues knowing how to pick good projects.