Why I Have Faith In ‘Annabelle 2’

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I’m a really big fan of director James Wan and his work on ‘The Conjuring’ film series. Although the films don’t particularly add particularly much to the horror genre, Wan understands horror movie tropes and is able to use them to great effect and still make films that although familiar, are fairly scary and entertaining. ‘The Conjuring’ was released in Summer 2013, an unusual release date for a horror film but Warner Brothers were very confident in their product and although the film only had a $20 million budget, it grossed $318 million – an excellent return. As the film had performed so well, a spin-off focusing on the infamous Annabelle doll that had featured in the opening sequence to ‘The Conjuring’ had been commissioned and was directed by frequent Wan cinematographer, John R. Leonetti. As I had suspected due to the poor impression left by the trailers, ‘Annabelle’ was an unoriginal, preposterous cash grab that save for one very well orchestrated scare and beautiful cinematography, was a dud. Critics too didn’t take to ‘Annabelle’ too well as it landed a measly 29% score on Rotten Tomatoes but although lacking in quality, it managed to gross $257 million on a $6.5 million budget which is outstanding. Luckily, James Wan went on to save the day for me quality-wise as he directed a sequel to ‘The Conjuring’ and  ‘The Conjuring 2’ was released in June 2016. Although not as fresh as its predecessor, it was still suitably scary and fairly entertaining despite awkward pacing issues.

I knew that ‘Annabelle 2’ was in the pipeline for a fair while but last night, the first trailer for ‘Annabelle 2’ was released and I have to say I was pretty impressed. Now although one should never judge a film by its trailer as has been demonstrated plenty of times lately (I’m looking at you ‘Suicide Squad’!), it looks like the film is taking itself seriously and once again looks beautifully shot, this time by Belgian cinematographer Maxime Alexandre.

However what really makes me have faith in this product is the choice of director.  John R. Leonetti is gone and this time replaced by director David F. Sandberg. Although I am yet to see it, Sandberg seems to have done a very good job on this Summer’s, ‘Lights Out’ and it was a hit both critically and commercially. He seems to be a much stronger director than Leonetti and a lot of the reasons why ‘Lights Out’ got good reviews was due to being effectively scary and being paced well something which hopefully with a good script should be something he can replicate here.

The casting for this film also looks promising. Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton were the leads of this film’s predecessor and both were awful, in particular Horton who should be very embarrassed with himself. Alfre Woodard rounded out this cast and although normally a great actor, her character was so dreadfully written and the film’s ending makes some rather baffling decisions with her character. Although it is not clear who the leads are yet or what the story is, a film with Miranda Otto and Anthony LaPaglia is normally a pretty safe bet and surely better than the combination of Wallis and Horton. I’m also sure that James Wan doesn’t want another poor quality film and hopefully he will be able to lend assistance in his producing role and ensure that this time we get a much better quality film.

Now I realise that all this is just pure speculation and it’s a very real possibility that we could end up with an equally horrible entry into this spin-off series but I think that the talent involved here are so much better, particularly Sandberg who seems to understand the horror genre with his work on ‘Lights Out’.  This also doesn’t look like a straight-to-DVD project unlike the first film which gave that impression. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get an equally successful spin-off series alongside the main ‘Conjuring’ films? I think this is a step in the right direction.

‘Annabelle 2’ is currently slated for release on Friday 26th May 2017. 



What are your thoughts? Does this look more of the same or do you think this film might actually be able to right the wrongs of the first film? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister 

‘Suicide Squad’ Gets A 15 Certificate

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There is only a few weeks until the highly anticipated ‘Suicide Squad’ is released – the next entry for DC following the controversial ‘Man of Steel’ and the even-more controversial ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’. ‘Suicide Squad’ offers a new perspective on comic-book films as it follows the villains of this cinematic universe who have to deal with an unknown threat (little of the story has been revealed thus far). The film has been rated PG-13 in America which means that parents are strongly cautioned that the film may not be suitable for those under 13 and for their children to view the film is at their discrepancy.

However, the BBFC has today given ‘Suicide Squad’ a 15 certificate which for me, is brilliant news. Now whilst this might not be in line with the MPAA (the equivalent certification body in America), the rating does suggest that the film will be at the lower end of what constitues a 15 but what it does mean is that no-one under the age of 15 will be able to view the film in a cinema which although will alienate a certain age market does mean that we should hopefully get a better quality film if the distributors have not made cuts to the film to get it down to a more profitable 12A rating.

The film has been rated a 15 for ‘sustained threat’ and ‘moderate violence’ – ‘moderate’ is fine for a 12A film – at 15 the violence would have to be deemed ‘strong’ but it seems as if the whole tone of the film has been judged not suitable at the 12A level and thus has elevated the film to a 15 due to the ‘sustained threat’.

Christopher Nolan’s, ‘The Dark Knight’ quite famously faced controversy for its 12A certificate back in 2008 and was the most complained about film of 2008 receiving 364 complaints from the general public disputing the film’s rating, particularly with the treatment of Heath Ledger’s sinister turn as The Joker. Perhaps this is the BBFC just trying to keep themselves in a safe position as Jared Leto plays the Joker in this film and whilst not a lot has been revealed at this point, the character is still sure to be menacing. Also the entirety of David Ayer’s filmography (Harsh Times, Street Kings, End Of Watch, Sabotage, Fury) has been rated 15 and this suggest that ‘Suicide Squad’ may be more in line tonally with these films and all of his films tend to be quite violent anyway.

I am very happy with this decision and hope that the film holds up to the excellent impression it has given in its superb trailers and now this piece of news.

’Suicide Squad’ will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 5th August.

‘Indiana Jones 5’ Is Finally Happening

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Surprisingly, Disney have announced a 5th film into the Indiana Jones franchise and it’s due for release in July 2019. Once again, it will be directed by Steven Spielberg (who has helmed all 4 so far) and will star Harrison Ford as the titular character.

All four of them are good fun in particular the second one, ‘Temple of Doom’ which is a really dark film, something that Spielberg regrets now but I think it works really well. Even ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’, the 4th entry into the series that received some mixed reviews was good fun. However, I am a little worried that Harrison Ford may be too old now to play him but that said, he just about looked ok physically in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and despite the films being awful, he was able to perform his fight scenes in ‘The Expendables’ franchise. At least Shia La Bouef, who played Indy’s son in the 4th instalment isn’t stepping into the lead role because that would be a bad turn for the franchise. Ford will be 77 years old by the time this comes out, so they better get filming quick!

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Effective Marketing

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There’s a new film coming out next week called ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ and it’s the ‘spiritual’ sequel to 2008’s ‘Cloverfield’. What both of these films have in common is their exceptional marketing, something the film industry is lacking these days. Both films have been produced by J. J. Abrams behind ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (my review here) and ‘Star Trek’ which both films as well were notorious were for their lack of spoilers.

With the original ‘Cloverfield’, a untitled teaser trailer appeared in July 2007 – just over 6 months before its release. It was very vague but enough to catch audience’s interest with the flying head of the Statue of Liberty. The trailer didn’t give away the film’s title – the only text was the release date ‘1.18.08’ (18th January) so fans went looking around the Internet for clues and Abrams had set up a website with clues for the audience to try and piece together. Social media, in particular Twitter, was relatively young so it was harder for information to pass around. ‘Cloverfield’ built up a lot of hype over the 6 months towards its release date and when it finally opened in America, it was Number 1 at the Box Office.

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’10 Cloverfield Lane’ has gone through a similar structure. Hot after the heels of Abrams’, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, the trailer for this sequel appeared online just 2 months before its release date and again, it got audiences talking. Perhaps the reason why it was announced last minute is due to the impact of social media or perhaps just so Abrams could get ‘Star Wars’ out of the way first. Either way, it’s genius.

Now whether or not, ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ ends up being a good sequel or not (early reviews would suggest it is a worthy sequel), you have to admire Abrams’ marketing technique. Even for ‘Star Wars’ and both of his ‘Star Trek’ entries, production was shrouded in secrecy and the trailers were deliberately vague to not spoil the whole film.

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Christopher Nolan is another filmmaker who is notorious for holding back spoilers for his films up until its release. Although teaser trailers were released more than a year in advance for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Interstellar’, nothing was given away until the film was released. What I particular admire about ‘Interstellar’ was its casting of Matt Damon who wasn’t revealed to be in the cast until very late into production and his character was in wraps up until the film opened. Another ingenious piece of marketing was David Fincher’s, ‘Se7en’ where similar to ‘Interstellar’, no one knew Kevin Spacey was going to be in the film until he shows up. Even in the opening credits to the film, Spacey’s name is omitted.

I think the film industry needs to have a big, long think about the way films should be marketed. With pretty much every mainstream film, trailers constantly ruin the film and promise us something that the film doesn’t give us. With Marvel and DC’s films, they have announced their line-up of films up until 2020 and the upcoming superhero smackdown that is ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ first received a teaser trailer in July 2014. That’s a year and a half in advance! Of course, this established to audiences that this film was in the pipeline for those that didn’t know but there have been 3 or 4 trailers now and I’ll be pleasantly surprised if when I watch the film, it is able to surprise me with something new that hasn’t already been spoiled. Everyone knew Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was going to be the villain but the second trailer spoiled that Doomsday would feature as well which I think ruins the experience.

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It’s not just spoilers that ruin a film but even the trailer is marketed as a big event. A lot of films release 15 second teasers of the TRAILER a couple of days / weeks in advance. Take the upcoming ‘Warcraft’ for example that released 15 second snippets of the trailer before it was released. This is crazy, in my opinion and it’s killing the film industry. Again, I will be surprised if the film offers anything new to what has been revealed in the trailers.

When you go the cinema or watch a film at home for the first time, it should be a new experience – like going to the theatre for example. When the lights fade out and the opening titles begin to appear on-screen, the audience should be on the edge of their seats and experience what is being portrayed on-screen. A lot of films that I have watched recently have been spoiled for me due to the excessive marketing and when I finally watch them, I tend to feel disappointed and start ticking off a mental checklist of what’s already been shown in the trailers.

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That is not what films are about and with talents like J. J. Abrams or Christopher Nolan, whether you like their filmographies or not, you’ve got to respect them for attempting to give to you the filmgoing experience.

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 18th March.

The Issue With ‘Deadpool’

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The famous Marvel character, ‘Deadpool’ is finally getting his own feature film next month. Ryan Reynolds is portraying him once again after ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ where the character unfortunately was poorly handled. What fans really want is a film filled with swearing, violence, gore, sex etc… ie. a film that will not be rated 12A / PG-13 which would appeal to mass audiences and instead a film that is rated in the higher boundaries of either a 15 or an 18 in the UK. ‘Deadpool’ has received an R rating in the USA which is equivalent to a 15 in the UK. The trailers all suggest that this will be the case and the MPAA’s R rating warns potential viewers that the film contains ‘strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity’.

Unfortunately there are petitions for this film to receive a second edit to a PG-13 so that kids can enjoy the film as well. Namely, one 8 year old in particular whose mother has called for this petition and YouTuber and part-time actress, Grace Randolph (‘BeyondTheTrailer’) has headed this petition by creating a Change.org link to get support.

Now, over the years film viewers have had to endure watered-down versions of their favourite films. Studios often do this to receive a bigger box office so that kids drag their parents to watch the film. Just from the last couple of years, the Die Hard franchise gave us the abominable 5th film with a 12A / PG-13 rating, ‘The Expendables 3’ deviated from its normal 15 / R rating for a more ‘kid-friendly’ film. The newest two ‘Terminator’ films got slapped with a lower rating Now none of these two aforementioned films are designed for kids to watch so this is a real travesty that this is happening.

So when ‘Deadpool’ finally is able to buck this trend and the fans are applauding the the studio for doing this, now people are asking for it to be cut down?!!! No way. This 8 year old kid and everyone else who wants to watch it will just have to wait until they’re old enough. By having a higher rating, the film will be more faithful to the comics and really encapsulate the character of Deadpool as portrayed in the comics.

I particularly enjoyed Ryan Reynold’s statement to this petition – “I don’t think so. I mean, you saw it. That would be a very short movie. It’s almost a commercial at that point.”

This is a step in the right direction and hopefully, other upcoming films will see the benefits in creating a better quality film as opposed to earning more cash.

 

R.I.P Alan Rickman and David Bowie

Both David Bowie and Alan Rickman passed away, aged 69 of cancer, within a few days of each other last week. This has left a gaping hole in both the music and film industry and we will never see the talents of either of these artists again.

David Bowie

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Of course, David Bowie was more famous in the music industry, but he is often overlooked for his acting in the odd film here and there. I thought he was particularly brilliant in Christopher Nolan’s magician film, ‘The Prestige’ where he played Nikolai Tesla and like Bowie, his performance is endlessly charismatic and enigmatic. Nolan famously had to convince Bowie to take the role as he knew he was the only fit.

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Alan Rickman 

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Another wonderful actor, Alan Rickman made every role he played his own and he could transform hokey scripts into works of art. Although everyone seems to agree, his best roles, in my opinion, were in ‘Die Hard’ and the ‘Harry Potter’ series. Rickman revolutionised the Hollywood villain with his dark turn as Hans Gruber in the first ‘Die Hard’ film and his performance was the start of many English actors taking on the stereotypical Hollywood villain, but his is one of the standouts. In fact, I’d go so far as to say Hans Gruber is one of the best villains in film of all time. His performance as Professor Snape in the ‘Harry Potter’ series was another work of genius and he really made the role his own and particularly in the last film, he took a very emotional turn. Rickman was also famous for comedic roles as well and his performance in ‘Love Actually’ revealed a very different man and he is one of the standouts of the film.

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Fox Pulls ‘Fantastic Four’ Sequel From Its Release Calendar

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This year’s version of ‘Fantastic Four’ got absolutely panned by critic’s and sits on a measly 9% on Rotten Tomatoes – the worst rating for a Marvel comic book film ever. I defended the film in my review of it as I found that problems aside, there was still a good film in there which unfortunately had been tangled with by Fox’s executives. Director Josh Trank even disowned his own film on its release day by writing his thoughts up on Twitter then quickly deleting the tweet.

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Trank had reportedly treated the film crew terribly, trashed his house and ultimately was unprofessional. Fox executives didn’t like the finished film and reshoots then had to be carried out, with some reports hinting that Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class, Kingsman: The Secret Service) stepped in to direct the reshoots after Trank was allegedly deemed incompetent. All this bad news culminated in Trank leaving (more likely kicked off) an upcoming Star-Wars spin-off. Fox was so sceptical of the film that the critic embargo for the film lifted on the day of its release so bad word of mouth couldn’t get out. Not only did it get panned by critic’s, it tanked hard at the box office earning $168 million on a $120 million budget – not enough to break even.

Fox initially insisted that the ‘Fantastic Four’ sequel was moving forward despite the box office failure of the first film but they have now officially removed the ‘Fantastic Four’ sequel from their release schedule originally pencilled in for a 9th June 2017 release date. Funnily enough, the sequel had been announced ahead of the first film’s release as they had felt confident that the film wouldn’t flop. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

I think it’s a shame that the sequel has been effectively, cancelled. I realise I am in the vast minority but with some tweaks and perhaps more studio confidence for Trank, they could have been onto a winner and redeemed themselves. The Fantastic Four actors gelled well together in the film so it would have been nice to see what they would have got up to next. At least everyone has been able to redeem themselves after this film – Miles Teller has several jobs lined up, Kate Mara managed to quickly dig herself out of a hole by starring in ‘The Martian’, Michael B. Jordan too with ‘Creed’. Only Jamie Bell has nothing on his schedule but with an actor of such a high calibre as he is, I don’t doubt he will find work.

The only person who is in a really bad position is Josh Trank who hasn’t been able to find work and most likely, no studio will want to touch him after the fiasco that happened on-set of this film and the fact that he publicly disowned the film and Fox on release.

The only direction these superheroes are going to go now is in the way of the Marvel Cinematic Universe who will probably pick them up seeing as the rights reverted back to them.

 

Sam Smith To Sing ‘Spectre’ Bond Song – My Thoughts

After denying several times that he would be singing the Bond song for the upcoming James Bond film, ‘Spectre’, it was finally announced on Tuesday 8th September that Sam Smith would in fact be following in the footsteps of Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney and Adele by singing the theme for ‘Spectre’ entitled ‘Writing’s on the Wall’. Rumours were suggesting Ellie Goulding, who I think would have been an interesting choice and the bookies favourite was Radiohead, who also would have been a good choice. I was personally hoping for an instrumental piece by the composer for the film, Thomas Newman, like in George Lazenby’s solo outing as Bond in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ – it worked really well and I had my hopes up when this theme appeared in the teaser trailer perhaps suggesting this might be the case.

Sam Smith is a very ‘safe’ choice – he’s very popular in the music industry at the moment with a couple of number 1’s under his belt. However overseas, particularly in the US, he is almost unheard of so in this respect, a rather offbeat pick. I personally don’t like his style of music and the vibe that I get from his personality is that he is quite stuck-up and arrogant, so for me it’s a big disappointment. However, I can picture him doing this job and I can imagine the finished product being similar to Tom Jones’ lung-busting performance of ‘Thunderball’ in 1965.

Coming off the Oscar-winning song by Adele with 2013’s ‘Skyfall’ does put Sam Smith at a disadvantage and he almost certainly won’t win an accolade this big for the song but it’ll be interesting to see what he does. But as mentioned, he does have a big fanbase and for many, they will be thrilled to see what he can come up with. So go on, Sam Smith. Surprise me….

‘Writing’s on the Wall’ is available for pre-order now and will be released on 25th September.