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Visions (2016)


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WARNING: May Contain Spoilers


I can't get over how many underrated horror films there are out there just because they didn't have the right marketing or had enough A-list actors in them. Visions falls into this category. It's a fresh, original idea, all the while falling into that common subgenre of supernatural horror. Isla Fisher carries the narrative well and gives a performance reminiscent of Michelle Pfieffer in What Lies Beneath. The story in and of itself has a bigger twist than one would expect on the same level as the big reveal of Bruce Willis' situation in The Sixth Sense.


After having gotten into a near-fatal car crash, Eveleigh (Fisher) and her husband, David (Anson Mount), purchase a vineyard after finding out that they will be starting a family. Arriving in a town she doesn't know, Evie decides to explore the area and to try to meet some new friends by taking a yoga class where she meets the vibrant and friendly Sadie (Gillian Jacobs). The two become very close and fast friends and Sadie seems to be the one confidant and piece of normalcy in her new life.


After having arrived at their new home, Evie has been seeing some very unusual visions, seemingly hauntings of a horrible murder. The wine bottles in the dining room suddenly explode only to have rematerialized once again after she screams and draws attention to herself. While sleeping one of her first weeks at home sweet home, Evie "dreams" that the metal bed frame bends, snaps and moves. She then looks down at her very pregnant belly and sees blood gushing out. She screams waking up David, only to see that there is no blood and that the bed frame is perfectly in place. A neighboring wine connoisseur even feels a violent presence in the house and agrees to help Evie figure out what is wrong, that is, until she dies.


The twist comes at the very end of the movie and without mentioning it would be a disservice to Jacobs' acting ability seeing as she is normally known for her more comedic roles. As it turns out, seeing as she's been rambling on about the house being haunted and that something terrible happened, all of her friends and family decide to initiate an intervention, confronting her that they fear for her sanity and her child. During this meeting, there is a knock at the door and we are confronted with a character, who viewers might realize after a bit, isn't at the intervention--Sadie. Was Sadie in fact the mother of the child that we long forgot about in the very beginning of the movie? Yes. Is she upset and does she plan on taking her revenge? Yes. The details that unfold during the process of this explains each and every vision Evie had during the course of the entire movie. Maybe I'm a sucker for things to tie together (I mean just watch one perfectly plotted episode of Seinfeld already!), but I also just like following the characters and am easily distracted. Despite knowing the ending I did still enjoy watching the film again.


Fisher proves she's not just a comedic actress and I could also appreciate the homage this film made to others, all the while setting up something fresh and original. I like being pleasantly surprised, don't you?


You can find Visions on the king of all streaming programs (yes, sorry Hulu, Amazon Prime and all you others out there!) Netflix. Enjoy!





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Riding on the coattails of the success of "bromance" films like Dumb and Dumber (1994); Wedding Crashers (2005); I Love You, Man (2009); Superbad (2007), and of course The Hangover (2009), comes Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key's action-packed comedy Keanu.


The film follows little Keanu from the start when he is the pampered pet kitten of a much sought after drug lord who is gunned down by the notorious Dresden Brothers. After escaping this blood bath, Keanu finds himself traveling across Los Angeles and scratching at the door of Rell Williams (Jordan Peele), who has just had an awful break-up and a continuing lack of motivation to continue his creative work as a photographer. Keanu brightens Rell's life, but one night when Rell and his cousin Clarence Goobril (Keegan-Michael Key) head out to the movies, little Keanu is stolen. The two must find a way to get back that cute little kitten that enriched Rell's once miserable situation. What they don't know is that they aren't the only ones that want little Keanu back. You might even say a gangsta would kill for this beloved kitten.


It's quite evident that this comedy duo respects the silly and adventurous. Keanu has that fresh quality of originality combined with what everyone loves about lighter fast-moving comedies with a cute little kitten thrown on top of it. The film also appeals to our love for animals. We are continually invested in the safety of little Keanu and we route more so for him to find the right home not just any home.


Key and Peele bring all the ridiculous banter that they had together on their phenomenal show Key and Peele. The witty banter seen between Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn is seen here along with the outrageousness of the situation, much like a Farrelly Brothers production. Again, this pair knows not only how to entertain their own fans but also how to emulate what we all have enjoyed about previous dynamic duo comedies of the last two decades.


Once Rell and Clarence find out that Keanu was stolen by another drug kingpin, they must in turn pretend to be the baddest and the meanest of gangsters--the Dresden Brothers. They gain the trust of Cheddar (Method Man) and the rest of his crew: Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish), Trunk (Darrell Brit-Gibson), Bud (Jason Mitchell), and Stitches (Jamar Malachi Neighbors). These characters don't stray from satire, but never get too heavy. The film continues with the balance of violence mixed with goofball comedy. It's also important to note that to round out the rest of the supporting cast is Luis Guzman (Boogie Nights, Anger Management), Will Forte (Nebraska, The Lego Movie), Nia Long (Friday, Big Momma's House), Rob Huebel (Children's Hospital, I Love You, Man), and an outrageous cameo by Anna Farris. When you have the goofiness of the story, the mascot of a cute kitten, an experienced comedy team, and good old-fashioned action and violence, you have a really entertaining film.


Keanu tugs at our heartstrings and makes us laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. We are invested from the first scene because we are routing for Rell to find happiness, but also for Keanu to be safe and where he belongs. It's a fight to the finish, with a very unexpected ending, that even film connoisseurs can't predict. 

The Conjuring 2


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Every now again we come across films that are considered horror movies, yet are so much more than that. Silence of the Lambs (1991), The Exorcist (1973), and Psycho (1960) all come to mind. All of these films are horrific in nature, but have messages that blur the lines between genres. James Wan has done it again with this thrilling and chilling sequel to his 2013 film The Conjuring. Returning are Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, and written for the screen by Wan (Insidious, Saw), Carey Hayes and Chad Hayes (The Conjuring, House of Wax) and David Johnson (Orphan).


This film isn't merely blood, gore and jump scares; it's a heart-wrenching love story,  loosely based on the real-life marriage between the Warrens. This is the most connected we've ever been to characters in Wan's films that doesn't rely on horror, but on a lesson about life and morality. We're invested more than before with the Warren family and even more so with the single mother-run household of Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor) and her four children Janet (Madison Wolfe), Margaret (Lauren Esposito), Billy (Benjamin Haigh) and Johnny (Patrick McAuley). The same disturbing images and visions that are haunting Lorraine and Ed, are connected to the haunting happening at the Hodgson residence. We're dealt with more scares and eerie spirits putting the characters we care so much about in immediate danger. After all, Lorraine can predict the future--she has a premonition of Ed's death.


The film picks up during the Warrens' visit to Amityville, Long Island, where they manage to help the Defeo family even amongst rumors that the "haunting" was a hoax to garner media attention. We follow Ed and Lorraine as well as Peggy, Janet and their family in Enfield, England. Once Peggy Hodgson sees that the Warrens were able to help the Defeo's, Peggy solicits the church and by extension, the Warrens. Not only have the children and Peggy seen unusual happenings in their home, but so have their neighbors and the local police. They are desperate to drive away the spirit of a man named Bill Wilkins, who used to live and then subsequently died, in their home years prior.   


C2 stirs up not only of what we fear, but how it can be utilized against us. The camera movement is one step ahead of you and these consistent movements draw tension from the audience all the while building up a scare that may or may not come. Sometimes we believe that there will be a pay off. We are anxious and ready for something scary and then, it never comes, which only makes us more on edge for the next scene.  


Wan also makes nods to his previous films. He successfully develops a unique world where we are familiar with the rules. What many of his previous films and C2 consistently question is: Is what we see really just a trick of the light? Are we imagining some things or is it something evil lurking, preparing to prey on us during our most vulnerable moments?

It's also important to note that Wilson has quite a fantastic singing voice! I had "Can't Help Falling In Love" by Elvis Presley stuck in my head the entire rest of the night. There are fantastic supporting roles as well played by Simon McBurney as Maurice Grosse, an expert on paranormal activity and Franka Potente, who we haven't seen on the big screen in a long time as Anita Gregory, who only wants to catch the supposed hoax of the Hodgson family.


This is a film that can make you tear up for the moral (stand up for the ones that you love, stick together and you can conquer anything--you are not alone) and bawl like a baby at the horrific imagery. Even the storyline in and of itself makes us doubt what we've been seeing the entire time. This is a film that will continue to scare you long after you've walked out of the theater. 



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(Warning: May Contain Spoilers)


Paramount Pictures’ Arrival is a true genre science fiction film juxtaposing the drama and emotional depth of humanity—what we know—alongside the mystical and extraordinary. This is not merely another horrific humanoid alien attack on Earth, but an exploration of how we as human beings all over the world react to what we perceive and the communication breakdown that can unnecessarily follow. Throughout the duration of the film we are constantly comforted and surprised. There’s warmth and humor brought to the screen by Jeremy Renner’s Ian Donnelly and Forest Whitaker’s blunt Colonel Weber; and the emotional process of grief through the eyes of Amy Adams’s Dr. Louise Banks. 


Adams’s character, Dr. Louise Banks, is intelligent and meek, yet she holds more power than meets the eye. She’s been hired by the U.S. Military to aid in communicating with aliens, who have landed their ships all over Earth. Every country has a team working on deciphering the language and the means with which the aliens are attempting to communicate with. The aliens are there for a reason, but it will take Louise to keep interactions with the aliens peaceful. Most of the countries are very quick to think that they will need to go to war with what they perceive to be a hostile situation with these extra terrestrials. 


To say that Adams shines in this role is an understatement. We’ve seen an array of work from her, but the role of Louise Banks takes us back to Adams’s Sunshine Cleaning (2008) days by playing a seemingly passive and timid character that comes across with a freshness that moves the audience in a way that they didn’t expect. Arrival isn’t merely a film about scientific discovery or abnormal circumstances, but the process of mourning and the perseverance of the human spirit. Without a knockout performance from Adams, this wouldn’t have been as successful. Jeremy Renner stands out as well as Ian Donnelly, a role that is out of the ordinary for him. Instead of his usual tough guy demeanor, we get to see him soften, obsessed with mathematical theory and cutely debate with Adams as the interaction between their characters progresses. Not to mention, good friends, Adams and Renner, have a quaint and subtle chemistry on screen that pushes the intimate feel of the film further. 


Denis Villeneuve as a director has really outdone himself this time. After Sicario (2015) and Prisoners (2013), this film stands out with a similar aesthetic to the previous films. However, this film brings something fresh to the screen along with a gloom that doesn’t seem quite as harsh, merely sad. Arrival breathes and moves in that lazy, rainy, after-school kind of day way. It pulses with the beat of something revolutionary and a twist that strikes the meaning of what it’s like to love—your life’s purpose and those closest to you—and how you’ll go about on your path despite whatever obstacles stand in your way. 


In addition to story, it can’t go without saying that production was extremely thorough in making sure that a majority of what they were doing exhumed the right aesthetic to the academic and linguistic field. Lead Linguist Consultant on the film, Jessica Coon, says that the film is thought-provoking and was spot on with a lot of what being a linguist is like. 

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