I was lucky enough to get an afternoon off and immediately ran out to catch a couple movies. Luckier still, both Oculus and The Raid 2 were quite good, though not without flaws.
Oculus (2013) – Rated R
“A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.”
I am not entirely sure why Oculus was rated R. Oh sure there were gory acts of violence in Oculus but they are few and far between. I am just not sure why the studio didn’t trim a few bits to obtain their teen-friendly PG-13 rating.
Back in 2006, Mike Flanagan made a short film entitled, Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan. He was writer, director, editor, producer, cinematographer, and even appeared in it. It won Best Short at DragonCon and a few other places and launched Flanagan’s career.
Now Oculus is a full motion picture. As the film begins, the events involving the mirror have already transpired and the movie cuts back and forth between the adult siblings attempt to prove the mirror demonic/possessed/naughty and the original story involving the characters as children.
The adults are played by Karen Gillan (Amy Pond in Doctor Who) and Brenton Thwaites (Slide, Home and Away). They do a very nice job but it would have been for naught had their child counterparts, Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, not been equally good. The stories parallel and they seem to have an equal emphasis and equivalent screen times.
The preparations Kaylie (Karen Gillan) makes seem sensible given the mirror’s history. Her brother Tim spent over a decade in a mental institution trying to forget what happened i.e. be rehabilitated. Oculus builds fairly slowly but is very involving.
As with Gravity, what makes Oculus so good (and it is) is not the story but the way it is told. As the modern story is interwoven with the flashback story, the characters come closer and closer to interacting with each other. The way shots are framed and staged and the editing are superb.
The only disappointment was the all-too-obvious ending. No details but I was very annoyed with the lazy finale. Other than that, I heartily recommend Oculus.
The Raid 2: Berandal (2014) – Rated R
“Only a short time after the first raid, Rama goes undercover with the thugs of Jakarta and plans to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within his police force.”
Now this is an R-rated movie. I have to say that The Raid is a much better, tighter film than its sequel. If you haven’t seen it, The Raid was very similar in tone and theme to Dredd (and both of them owe a nod to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 but I digress). It told the story of a police raid on an apartment block that goes seriously awry.
The Raid 2 aims to be a gangland epic along the lines of Scarface and The Godfather while still attempting the policeman deep undercover angle. Ostensibly Rama is undercover to root out high level police corruption but this is not where the story takes us. Instead we are treated to a young criminal’s rise to power through his father’s organization.
The Raid 2 is too convoluted. Many characters are given wonderful introductions and then summarily dispatched. One character, whose backstory is given about five minutes before he dies, could have centered a whole movie.
The Raid 2 also tests one’s bladder at a two and a half hour runtime. I say tests because if you are an action violence aficionado, you won’t want to miss a minute of this film. While Gareth Evans the writer could use some more polish, Gareth Evans the action director is definitely one of the best in the business.
Violence in The Raid 2 even surpasses that in The Raid. It is omnipresent and brutal. I have to admit I loved watching a female assassin wielding dual claw hammers decimate a set of bodyguards in suits. The Raid 2 is a simple recommendation. If you enjoy action violence or martial arts and don’t mind subtitles, go see this film. Now.