When The Conjuring released in 2013 it was a surprise hit earning over 15 times its original budget. Although the film wasn’t immune to the clichés of the genre, director James Wan executed them so effectively that nearly every viewer succumbed to fear.
The success has led to numerous sequels, spin-offs, and spin-off sequels, and soon Wan will be passing the torch to Michael Chaves to lead the mainline series. Before that, Chaves gets a trial run with the tangentially related The Curse of La Llorona, a film that unfortunately feels all too familiar.
Set in the early 1970s, the film follows social worker and single mom Anna (Linda Cardellini) who intervenes after discovering Patricia (Patricia Velásquez), a mother in her caseload, has kept her children locked in a closet for several days. Soon after being placed in foster care the two boys are found dead in a reservoir.
Believing Patricia to be the culprit Anna seeks her out, but soon discovers it is the work of La Llorona, a malevolent spirit who murdered her own children and now seeks to take the lives of others’. Blaming Anna for the loss, Patricia prays to La Llorona to take the social worker’s young son and daughter instead leaving Anna to hunt for a way to break the curse.
La Llorona’s underlying conceit places a considerable amount of weight on the matriarchal role, something the studio undoubtedly understood when they cast such a familiar face for the part, and Cardellini carries this responsibility without issue. She balances a maternal resilience with the utter terror that accompanies this type of situation, and is the biggest factor in creating any engagement with the audience.
Consistently working against said engagement is the lack of freshness in the script and the scares. It’s an effort to get spooked when you can correctly count out the beats before the next appearance of La Llorona who appears quite frequently, and while the design elicits a reaction the first time it dwindles over time. It also suffers from groan-worthy character decisions. This happens frequently enough that by the last third scenes that are designed to draw out tension instead invoke laughter.
This feeling is amplified when viewed with a large crowd which interestingly inspires a positive viewpoint. It’s easy to see why these movies have continued to garner so much attention and money. La Llorona does feel formulaic in the way that a Marvel movie can down to the well timed instances of levity; in this case brought to you by a rather fun performance from Raymond Cruz. Yet, when viewed with a crowd like the one at SXSW the eye rolls are done in unison and the theater can breathe a collective sigh of disbelief at the stupidity of a character decision. There’s something of worth, albeit distant from what made the original films so buzzworthy, in the communal nature of this popcorn horror.
For those who have been fans of the Conjuring universe, including the “bad” entries, thus far seeing this opening weekend could inspire a fun theater experience although largely at the film’s expense. For everyone else, here’s hoping that Chaves learns from The Curse of La Llorona and takes a few more chances next time he steps up to the plate.
No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters
If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago.
It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced.
Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game.
From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.
Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.
The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.
What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?
And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Back to the movie.
Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.
Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.
The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023
Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).
Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm