Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: The Conjuring and Conjuring 2

What are they about?

Both movies center around the figures of the Warrens, who are real life ghost hunters.  Each movie tackles at least one of the 'real life' cases they investigated and what they encountered, with a bit of cinematic flair.


Like most people I became familiar with the Warrens through the Amnityville Horror movies.  I was reintroduced to them several times through my various adventures into stories of ghost hunters and paranormal things.

Across all of this, there's very different views of the Warrens.  Some people love them, some people owe them their lives, some people hate them and on and on.  Either way, they are some of the most interesting people out there when you look into paranormal things.

With that in mind, I actually love the idea of them being part of this cinematic universe and I'm very much enjoying seeing it grow across several movies.

The first Conjuring introduces us to Ed and Lorraine Warren in the context of not the Amnityville Horror, but rather another haunted house that is supposed to be possessed by the spirit of a dead witch who is terrorizing the family.

In this movie we have all the normal trappings of a paranormal hunt however with two very distinct differences.  For one they keep the movie in the correct time period - the 70's.  So there's a well done nostalgic feel that keeps you rooted in the technology of then and how people may have reacted in that time.  The second is that there's no found footage.  James Wan (the director) has wisely decided to ignore the cliche gimick of shaky cam and instead focus on scaring the bejezus out of us in other ways, and it's effective.

The second movie, Conjuring 2, explores another slightly more well known case with the Warrens
known as The Einfield Haunting.  Again we're presented with a large family who has to deal with a demon in their house, with it's own intentions.  And since this one takes place in England, the Warrens have their hands tied with what they can and can't do.

Oddly, both of these movies manage to duplicate the feeling that I always loved about X-Files, the tv show, and my little paranormal fangirl.  You, as the viewer, are presented with the tale of a demon and how a family copes with it.  Yes, it could be fake, and the Warrens take you for a ride to slowly delve into proving it so that they can perform an exorcism.  In the end they become kind of the heroes of the franchise without any huge display of powers.  They just happen to know about the paranormal.

With reguard to powers, there is a caviate.  Yes, Lorraine Warren is shown to have psychic powers.  However, she's never really shown to control them.  Rather she's just a party to what they show her and then relays the message.  She doesn't summon up the demons or powers at will, they just either are or aren't there.

Beyond these two movies, there's a host of spinoffs that have either been released or are on the way.  From Annabelle, to the Nun and hopefully many others, we get to see other cases that the Warrens have had some part in. And as someone who loves a good ghost story, I love seeing how these all intermingle with each other.

Now, yes, I have reviewed another movie about The Enfield Haunting and I've linked it.  Also, through my reading and websurfing, I know that these movies take quite a few artistic liberties.  For example, the real Annabelle looks more like Raggity Ann then some chipped and creepy porcelain doll.  And The Enfield Haunting has it's own controversies with how the Warrens were tied into it.  Weirdly the controversies add their own layer to watching the movies and guarantee me hours of further reading to hear all the sides and come to my own conclusions, like any good ghost story should, so I don't mind the artistic liberties.  It just means that I have a lot of reading ahead of me to learn the real story and what actually happened.  It's like a really good cinematic teaser.

I honestly like both of these movies for what they are and that's a good scary ride.  It doesn't matter to me if they're true or not, but the fact that their based in a thread of truth runs just the right line to make it good.  That plus the style of James Wan and the great actors and actresses makes for a fun ride.  I'm very much looking forward to checking out many of the spin offs, soon as I find them on a streaming service I subscribe to.

Where did I watch it?

HBO Go streaming service.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: D. Gray-man Hollow

What's it about?

Return to this alternate timeline where the world is a mixture of science and magic and exoricists hunt down mysterious weapons called Innocence to defeat the Millenum Earl.  Allen Walker, an exorcist, discovers secrets of his past and how he is truely tired to the Noah, the Millenium Earl and the 14th.


Back when I'd originally started this series, I loved the characters but the series cut off with no real resolution thanks to a host of issues.  Sadly it left things unresolved and upon hearing that there was a continuation I was eager to jump back in.

I am a huge sucker for anime that focus on religion, mainly because it's so interesting to see how other cultures see something that I'm familiar with.  So anime that deal with exorcists and demons and the like are super interesting to me.  There's always something new about it and so much creativity they aren't afraid to explore.  In the course of a continuation I was excited there too, because the characters I'd been introduced to were very interesting and deserved more screen time.

Sadly this continuation didn't turn out as I'd hoped.  Unlike other projects out there that pick up old source material and continue it for a new audience, this anime drops the viewer right into the thick of it.  While this might work for some series, D.Gray-man it does not.  There are just far too many characters for one to keep track of, and this was in detriment to the series as a whole.

The original D.Gray-man series had a habit of introducing the audience to a daily monster, then defeating it and recruiting them to The Order of exorcists.  This style makes it easy to follow from day one, but jumping back in it means you're left with about 20 characters to juggle.  Add to that the newly introduced members of the Noah family (the bad guys), the Crows (exorcists in red), the Thirds (more exorcists), the scientists, the Bookmen and a couple more daily monsters and it will make your head spin. It almost made me want to take out a pen and paper to take notes - which is not a good thing.

Though, realistically I should have realized from the opening, as it basically shows all these characters as different groups and hints that there's a lot to keep track of.

Even setting the characters aside, the plot arc of the 14th is heavy, and a lot to swallow.  Without giving too much away it causes an upheaval in The Order and Allen is stuck right in the middle of it.  He's not so much an active character, but rather along with the right, trying to survive with everyone else.  This fast pace leaves the viewer wanting to take more notes.  It also made it feel like I was watching a long winded recap due to the speed, and I found myself really hoping that they would slow down and re-cover a few things, rather then handing characters so much exposition dialog.

Sadly, the final nail in the coffin was the ending of the season.  It's left wide open with no resolution, obviously hinting at them expecting to have more time.  Sadly, like the previous series, it was cut off after just one season with no resolution in sight.  I'll have to hunt down the manga for a resolution, which isn't horrible, but it would have been nice to see it in animated format before I do that.

While not all bad, there were some good points of the series.  For one, Kanda gets a well done arc that explains quite a bit of his back story and where he came from.  Though rushed, I did like learning about the 2nds and Alma.  The sad part is that like the rest of the series, this is left open ended and at the end of the season we are left seeing only the beginnings of his reactions to discovering the truth.  I would have loved to see this full story line all the way to the end with his reacting to what he learned, but no such luck.

The Noah family, also, enjoys a bit of a redesign for the better.  While more is learned about the Millennium Earl that completely destroys his ability to be threatening, other characters like Tyki Mikk are done beautifully.  For as a little as he shows up in this new series, him and Road are high points in the season and there's never enough of them, ever.

The animation is a bit of a sticking point as well.  While overall it looks stunning and beautiful, there are certain points where it misses the mark entirely.  Comical moments are paired with 1st season Naruto style animation that makes me want to wash my eyes out and high tension fight scenes are paired with oddly drawn eyes that make the characters look squished or cross-eyed and destroy the tension completely.  It's highly distracting and really detracted from the series as a whole, no matter how much I wanted to know what was coming next.

Final Thoughts?

While series like Black Butler and Full Metal Alchemist have made anime retreads and continuations all the rage, this is one you can skip.  The plot points are interesting and the characters are there, but it makes more sense to read a well edited Wikipedia article then try and keep track of everything over 12 episodes.  I wasn't impressed, it actually saddened me that I spent the time on it.

Oh well, time to hunt down some fanfic about Kanda and Alma and look into the manga series, hoping there's some closure and better explanation there.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: The Witch

What's it about?

Set back in the 1600's, a family is banished from their colonial town to build their own farm and find their own way.  However, things don't go well on their own.  Within the first year they are set upon by an evil force, set on bringing them to ruin.


I'll say first off, that as a practicing witch, movies like this give me pause.  I often laugh off the way my kind are portrayed in movies and during the holidays because it's usually quite comical or so far off the mark.  However, there are some portrayals that really get under my skin, and that's usually when they're rooted in the fear people have of witches and the severe hatred that some people have based on religion.  It bothers me because their view of us is nothing like what we really are and when a lot of people hate, well, stupid and dangerous things happen.

That said, this movie got under my skin in a really good way, so much to the point that I actually turned it off halfway through and took a break before I could finish it.  There's a severe amount of religious self loathing and self hatred in this movie that I wasn't prepared for.  That plus the dated style of speaking really pulls you in to this family and what they are dealing with.  You feel for all of them, and when the shit starts to hit the fan, it's painful to watch, but it's also like a train wreck, because you want to see where it all ends up.

The other thing that got under my skin was the treatment of Thomasin.  A lot of how she was treated scared me, because the family was so quick to jump to hatred and fear and she's put in a really impossible place.  She has to deal with all of it and somehow survive.

My biggest gripe with the film is that in some cases they showed a little too much.  While I understand why they included the imagery they did, I wish there were two scenes where they didn't, because it kind of ruined the effect. But that's mostly minor and can be overlooked.

All in all, the movie is quite good, if you can get past some of those points.  It's not scary in a bloody way, really.  Instead I found this movie scary and effective because of how well it shows how quickly people will turn on each other when scared.  Especially considering the current world and how much people are emboldened to act on such emotions, this movie cut a bit closer then I was expecting.

Over all, after making it to the end, I really liked it.  I admire where this film went and how the story played out.  Though hard to watch, it's a very well done folktale.

How I saw it

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness

It's hard to describe this book and really do it justice. 

I picked it up on the recommendation of a friend on Facebook, and do not regret it for a second.

The book tells, in manga form, the story of a young woman who has never viewed herself highly and how that has effected her view of herself and the world, and held her back from living. 

This is an intensely personal story from the author. In a simple and crude style she gives us a view into the personal and crushing parts of her life. She doesn't expect us to understand everything and doesn't give excuses, but is rather very up front and blunt with the turns her life has taken and why and where it has taken her. 

While some of her experiences were totally foreign to me, several hit far too close to home. Several times I found myself looking away from the book and pausing as I remembered parts of my life growing up. This is not just for queer teenagers, but also speaks to eating disorders, issues with belonging and the need to be accepted but also be alone, just to name a few. It is an emotional book to read and grasp, however the rough manga style makes it very easy to read and light to take in, to contrast the heavy material.

But with all of that it's also worth it. No deep answers are given, no fixes suggested, just honesty. The type of honesty I wish I'd had when I was experiencing the worst of this in my teenage years. The author doesn't claim to be an expert, or even fixed. She just exists and is still learning how to be herself and deal with who she is, if she even knows. 

In that I found the book to be refreshing and needed. Having someone present this much emotion and personal info while not claiming to be an expert is so sincere. This book's simplest message is that 'you're not alone' no matter how alone you feel, and that is something so important.  It's even more important then being fixed or able to cope with life, because sometimes just having someone understand is enough.

Every once in the great while I come across a book that I have feel a deep need to buy multiple copies of and give them to friends. This is one of those books. I highly recommend giving this book a read and a chance. It doesn't offer any answers or fixes, but sometimes just knowing that someone else gets it means just as much.  Seriously, go get yourself a copy. 

BTW: This was soooooo me in high school.  I should have known: