Warner Brothers Pictures
Rated R for horror violence and terror
Demonic Doll Haunts Yet Another House In Prequel To “The Conjuring” Franchise
Annabelle: Creation is the fourth film in a horror franchise that previously featured The Conjuring 1 and 2 as well as Annabelle. Because this prequel is set in 1952, well before the events which transpired in the others, one need not be familiar with those pictures to thoroughly enjoy this one, provided you like having the bejesus scared out of you.
The stand-alone screamfest trades in all the staples of your generic haunted house adventure, ranging from a spooky disembodied voice singing a cappella, to involuntary levitation, to a victim leaving nail marks in the floor as she’s dragged down a darkened hall by a mysterious force. The movie was directed by David F. Sandberg, the Swedish wunderkind who made an impressive debut just last year with the low-budget thriller Lights Out.
As the film unfolds, we find dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his reclusive, bed-ridden wife, Esther (Miranda Otto), passing their days in a ramshackle, Victorian mansion sitting on a mountaintop in the middle of nowhere. They’re ostensibly still shaken by the loss of their daughter Bee (Samara Lee) who was hit by a car over a decade ago.
That might explain why the inconsolable couple has decided to share their humble abode with a half-dozen orphans. The homeless girls are being chaperoned by Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), a God-fearing guardian grateful to get a roof over their heads.
The waifs are pretty much given free rein of the place, except for a direct order from Mr. Mullins to steer clear of Bee’s bedroom. But that injunction proves too tempting for Janice (Talitha Bateman), a curious kid suffering from polio.
Of course, she ventures inside and unwittingly unleashes a host of demonic forces doing the bidding of Annabelle, a doll Samuel had originally made for his dearly-departed daughter. It isn’t long thereafter that all hell begins to break loose.
Director Sandberg proves particularly adept at ratcheting up the tension. In fact, the spine-tingling flick delivers innumerable heart-stopping moments along the way, though they come more from jolting sounds and abrupt edits than from investment in the simplistically-drawn characters.
Ask if they’ll sell you a ticket for half a seat, since you’ll never bother to sit back during this edge-of-your-seat thriller.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 109 minutes
In This Corner Of The World
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and war images
Evocative Anime Chronicles WWII From Hiroshima Native’s Point-Of-View
On August 6, 1945, President Truman took to the radio to announce that “the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base.” Truth be told, only about 15% of the 140,000 people killed by the blast were Japanese soldiers. Nevertheless, the history books have routinely ignored the fact that the vast majority of the casualties were civilians, in favor of crediting the Manhattan Project, a top-secret scientific project, for the mammoth explosion hastening the conclusion of World War II.
If you’ve ever wondered what it might’ve been like to live in Hiroshima before it was vaporized, submitted for your approval is In This Corner Of The World, an evocative anime presented from the perspective of a young woman born and raised in the ill-fated city. The poignant tale covers over a dozen years in the life of Suzu Urano (Rena Nouren), an aspiring artist with a vivid imagination.
The story unfolds in 1933, when we find her dream of drawing as a vocation frustrated by her having to work in the family seaweed business. That hope grows even fainter after the outbreak of the war when resources become rationed and just finding pencils to doodle with proves to be an exercise in futility.
The plot thickens when she is courted by Shusaku (Yoshinasa Hosaya), a sailor from a neighboring seaport called Kure. After they wed, she relocates to the city, and resides with his family for the duration of the hostilities.
That means she’s away from her hometown on the fateful day that it’s blown to smithereens. Nevertheless, she’s deeply affected, as so many people and places dear to her heart disappear in an instant.
A timely morality play, indeed, given the dire apocalyptic threats currently being traded between the unhinged leaders of America and North Korea.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 129 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening August 18, 2017
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Unlikely-buddies comedy about an ace bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) who grudgingly helps a notorious assassin (Samuel L. Jackson) negotiate a dangerous gauntlet en route to the Hague where he’s set to testify in 24 hours at the International Court of Justice. Co-starring Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek and Elodie Yung.
Logan Lucky (PG-13 for profanity and crude comments) Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh (for Traffic) comes out of retirement after four years to direct, shoot and edit this comic crime caper revolving around two brothers (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) who hatch a plan to pull a heist at the Charlotte Motor Speedway during NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 car race Ensemble cast includes Daniel Craig, Hilary Swank, Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes, Dwight Yoakam and Riley Keough.
Patti Cake$ (R for crude sexual references, drug use, pervasive profanity and a brief nude image) Overcoming the odds saga, set in Lodi, New Jersey, revolving around a Rubenesque rapper’s (Danielle Macdonald) quest for superstardom. With Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhanajay, Mamoudou Athie and Cathy Moriarty.
Crown Heights (R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and violence) Miscarriage of justice drama recounting the real-life ordeal of Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield) who was sentenced to life in 1980 for a murder he didn’t commit. With Nnamdi Asomugha, Bill Camp and Yil Vazquez.
Dave Made a Maze (Unrated) Nick Thune plays the title character in this horror comedy about an artist who ends up trapped in his living room inside a booby-trapped fort of his own making. With Kristen Vangsness, John Hennigan and Stephanie Allynne.
Gook (Unrated) Racial strife saga, set in South Central L.A. in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, revolving around the attempt of a couple of Korean-American brothers (Justin Chon and David So) to protect their shoe store from rioters with the help of a street-wise, 11-year-old black girl (Simone Baker). Cast includes Ben Munoz, Curtiss Cook, Jr. and Chris Jai Alex.
Lemon (Unrated) Midlife crisis dramedy about a struggling actor-turned-drama teacher (Brett Gelman) whose world falls apart after he’s dumped by his blind girlfriend of 10 years (Judy Greer). With Nia Long, Fred Melamed and Michael Cera.
The Queen of Spain (Unrated) Penelope Cruz stars in this sequel to her 1998 film, Girls of Your Dreams. Follow up finds her character returning to Spain from Hollywood to star in a movie about Queen Isabella. Supporting cast includes Antonio Resines, Neus Asensi and Ana Belen. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
Shot Caller (R for graphic violence, drug use, brief nudity and pervasive profanity) Crime thriller about a recently paroled DUI convict (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who finds himself pressured to pull a big heist by the gang that protected him while behind bars. With Omari Hardwick, Benjamin Bratt, Emory Cohen and Lake Bell.
Sidemen: Long Road to Glory (Unrated) Reverential retrospective taking a fond look at the careers of pianist Pinetop Perkins, guitarist Hubert Smith and drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, members of the unsung band that backed up such blues legends Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Narrated by Marc Maron, and featuring commentary by Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and Gregg Allman.