Comedy, Reviews

The Heat

Heat

Copyright © 2013 by 20th Century Fox

Story
FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is a highly trained and competent investigator in her unit but is very much disliked by her peers for her behaviour. When her superior, Hale (Demián Bichir) is promoted, he promises Ashburn of replacing him if she is able to work well in a team while solving the latest case assigned to her in Boston. Detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), a brash police officer in the Boston Police Department captures a suspect that is key to Ashburn’s investigation and together, they are forced to help each other to bring down the drug kingpin, Simon Larkin. It is an ordeal at first for the both of them as their vastly different personalities and work ethics often clash, thus slowing down the mission. Over time, they strike up an unlikely friendship and through this, Ashburn realises what it is like to be in a team.

Review
Sizzling! That is how Bullock and McCarthy’s on-screen chemistry is. It should be more aptly used in a romantic comedy, but it is a love story of a different kind. When we are first acquainted to Bullock’s Ashburn, she is a miss-know-it-all with very little regard to her fellow male officers. She is so determined and driven in her job that her canine companions in the task force are not spared of the ridicule as well. It is basically what you will describe of Shannon Mullins when she is on duty, only louder and wackier.

A by-the-book archetype and another who completely ignores the rules, it is a recipe for disaster should they ever cross paths. What could really be cringe-worthy in real life turns out to be the most hilarious parts of the movie. From the moment they meet at the car park albeit unofficially, it clearly sets the tone of their budding relationship. Most of the laugh-out-loud moments come courtesy from McCarthy spewing out words of ‘wisdom’ on her partner’s lifestyle or fashion sense.

The highlight of such audacity at Ashburn’s expense reaches a peak while both of these ladies concoct a plan to plant a bug in one of their suspect’s cell phone. Things do slow down a bit after that for us to get up, close and personal with our dynamic duo. It quickly picks up the pace once again after they obtain assistance on a lead via Mullins’ brother Jason (Michael Rapaport). The unmasking of the elusive Simon Larkin is a good twist but what truly excites is the unexpected treatment of Ashburn’s limb during her captivity with Mullins and Ashburn’s ‘retort’ to Larkin’s appendage.

Those who are jaded by yet another buddy cop comedy can take solace ‘The Heat‘ is not one more run-of-the-mill flick trying to cash in on this fairly successful formula. It may just be a female version of ‘Lethal Weapon’ or ‘Rush Hour’ but it does stand firmly on its own two feet due to the stars’ onscreen compatibility and taut script. Bullock, flawless as the uptight Ashburn has perfected the role after other equally memorable takes from her previous efforts i.e. ‘Miss Congeniality’ and ‘The Proposal’. Although a recognisable face on television, McCarthy only broke through recently with ‘Bridesmaids’ which is also a directorial hit for Paul Feig.

She continues her winning streak here as the sassy yet caring detective from Boston whom Ashburn forms a sisterhood with. Being the less tactful one, she will put you in your place whenever she deems fit. The laughs never fall short with every single line she utters. And that is what ‘The Heat’ does best; to just have a hooting good time while we are taken along for a riotous ride with this unlikely pair.

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: B+

Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude content and some violence

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Horror, Reviews

Insidious: Chapter 2

Insidious 2

Copyright © 2013 by FilmDistrict

Story
Set after the events of ‘Insidious’, it explores the origins of the Bride in Black entity which had taken over Josh Lambert’s (Patrick Wilson) physical form while attempting to guide his son, Dalton’s (Ty Simpkins) soul back to his body and into the real world. It delves further into the history of the Bride when it tried possessing Josh unsuccessfully when he was a boy and its motivations for being patiently persistent. With the help of Dalton and Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), a friend of Lorraine Lambert (Barbara Hershey) who had been murdered earlier after discovering Josh’s secret, they vow to reunite Josh with his body and rid of the Bride’s presence for good.

Review
It is a 2 for 2. After the hugely successful ‘The Conjuring’ which premiered in July, there was great anticipation for the sequel to this sleeper hit. There have been its detractors who thought of it as merely a cash grab and the story is a rehash of the original. While it did thrive at the box office and the scares are somewhat familiar (James Wan’s previous hits are big inspirations here), what works is the decision to layer the original with increased depth in characterisation and purpose.

What is being offered at least does not feel recycled and is actually required for closure as to how Leigh Whannell’s script took us the very first time. We were introduced briefly as to why this unrest soul was so eager to inhabit Josh since his childhood days but never more than a teaser as the focus had always been the son’s plight to escape the clutches of another demonic existence. Scripting duties once again goes to Whannell and he has ensured that all issues faced by daddy are covered thoroughly and thoughtfully.

You can argue on some of the film’s logic i.e. spirited Josh is able to time travel to meet his younger self and intercept a sinister figure even before he knew what he is capable of (Elise suppressed his memories on his ability for his own protection) but if you are spirited away to another realm, I guess time is at a halt and anything is possible. Other than this gripe, the story flows fluidly, alternating with the real and surreal seamlessly. For something so menacing and villainous, the Bride in Black does score some sympathy points for the emasculation it suffered while alive and still in torment as it attempts to relive the past.

The source for such pain spreads from a very ‘nurturing’ mother and is played to devilish perfection by Danielle Bisutti. It would have been a tad more developed if she was given a larger role on her obsession for a child of a particular gender. For a character who met her demise a little too soon, it is refreshing to see Shaye’s prominence elevated considerably and still a force to be reckoned with, even in the afterlife. The star undoubtedly belongs to Wilson for his deranged performance as a supposedly remorseless killer. It is disturbing on many levels but yet is able to maintain a certain finesse to his overall portrayal. Watch out for his ‘shining’ moment as he reaches pass his breaking point.

In spite of some textbook scares to raise the scare-o-meter, it is nevertheless still very watchable with a justifiable cause for its continuity. The ending is what you would expect from a horror franchise and as Wan is currently involved with another fast and furious series, only time will tell if he would be up for another round. A change of genre is always great to conjure the creative juices back!

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements

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Horror, Reviews

The Conjuring

Conjuring

Copyright © 2013 by Warner Bros.

Story
Based on real life American paranormal investigators and authors associated with prominent cases of haunting Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), it focuses on one of their encounters with the supernatural that has been terrorizing the Perron family in their farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island in 1971. Determined to never leaving the family alone, the Warrens are not spared from this malice as well and it even goes as far as to torment their daughter Judy (Sterling Jerins). Upon further investigation, the Warrens find out that the entity intends to possess one of the key members and the unexpected turn of events will require more than just a leap of faith to exorcise this demonic presence.

Review
Creepy! To sum it all up in a word and in a good way about James Wan’s follow-up to his previous hit, ‘Insidious’. While there are certain elements which are being re-established in ‘The Conjuring’, the film never loses its momentum from the minute a certain sinister looking doll is introduced to the viewers. Said doll is even getting its own movie. Although it is entirely a different case, the scenes will definitely latch on to you long after it is over. To the actual plot itself, the standouts do not run short. From his success with ‘Insidious’, Wan has upped his ante with the suspense and it is so masterfully crafted that whenever any of the characters are in peril, you cannot help but share the exact same fear.

I kept cowering in my seat every time the Perrons’ daughters are being harassed by the malevolent forces which dwell in their newly purchased home. The ordeals that Christine (Joey King) and Andrea (Shanley Caswell) faced are so harrowing to the point you can only wish you never have to be in their shoes. Even the skeptics are not spared from these unrest souls. For a non-believer, police officer Brad Hamilton’s (John Brotherton) encounter with the supernatural is sure to get one of the biggest jolts from any moviegoer. The familiarity of hide-and-clap will never be looked at the same way again too when these uninvited playmates interrupt a game of innocent fun.

The final revelation of this sinister plot comes full circle when the target for possession was Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) all along and the exorcism performed on her by Ed is unexpected yet bloody. Fittingly so, with an ensemble cast comprising mostly female actors, huge praises certainly go to Farmiga, Taylor and King for turning in understated but impactful performances that rival favourites such as ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘The Others’, ‘The Ring’ and Farmiga’s previous horror outing, ‘The Orphan’, just to name a few. It’s a welcoming return to see Taylor once again on the big screen after a leave of absence from the industry.

Wilson, collaborating with Wan second time around is just as comfortable with his role as his counterparts and manages to hold his own against the formidable presence of Farmiga. She has been carving a solid body of work since her breakout role in ‘The Departed’ with numerous hits including ‘Source Code’, the Oscar-nominated ‘Up In The Air’ and the aforementioned fright flick. Together, they form a believable partnership as these committed ghosts chasers who were pitted with one of the most terrifying forces ever encountered.

As a sequel has already been commissioned from its commercial and critical success, we can only hope it does not diminish the original’s quality but as an expansion to their other unforgettable cases that they were involved in. For now though, let us just savour another winner from what Wan has crafted through a polished script, distinct music and intelligent editing.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror

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