Have you ever seen one of those news stories where a theater full of children is accidentally shown the wrong movie? It’s usually a horror flick or something equally traumatizing for young viewers.

Well this week the opposite happened to me during my showing of the latest terrifying addition to The Conjuring movie universe, “Annabelle Comes Home.”

I should have known something was up from the very beginning.

Before the movie began, like usual we were treated to a collection of trailers. Previews of upcoming movies which are usually in the same genre as the film you’re about to be shown.

But instead of ads for new horror movies in the works, we saw trailers for “Angry Birds 2,” “Trolls World Tour,” “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” “Frozen 2,” and “The Lion King.”

At the time I didn’t really think anything of it. I just assumed there was some odd demographic overlap between “Annabelle” fans and “Dora the Explorer” lovers and didn’t pay the previews much mind.

But then a starry blue sky appeared, and Disney’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” theme began to play, and I knew something was very wrong.

The rest of the audience clued in around when the Pixar logo appeared, and instead of being treated to horrifying scares, we were watching the beginning of “Toy Story 4.”

And though both films happen to feature creepy looking dolls, the majority of the theatergoers were understandably confused and a bit perturbed.

It turned out to be a fairly understandable mixup though. For most of the day, this particular auditorium had been showing “Toy Story 4” during the more family friendly hours and had only switched to “Annabelle” for the last late night showing of the evening. So clearly someone had just forgotten to switch out the movie.

Luckily, after watching a bit of “Toy Story 4,” the screen went black and the correct movie began to play without any other issues. 

And it appeared none of horror moviegoers were traumatized by watching 10 minutes of a kid’s film, so I doubt this story will make it big on social media like it does when the opposite happens.

Either way, I got a good chuckle out of the whole mishap.

In addition to watching the latest “Annabelle” movie, I also saw a film about an aspiring musician who one day wakes up in a world that’s never heard of The Beatles or any of their famous melodies.

So without any further ado, let’s get to the reviews.

***

Yesterday

First up is “Yesterday.”

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling singer-songwriter in a tiny English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie (Lily James).

Then, after a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover The Beatles never existed. As seemingly the only man on Earth to remember the rock group’s famous melodies, Jack decides to take advantage of this strange turn of events.

I gotta say, I’ve been looking forward to this movie for a while now. I loved the concept from the very first time I saw the trailer.

The idea of a down-on-his-luck musician suddenly being the only guy on the planet to have knowledge of the most famous band ever seemed like the makings of a really fun story.

Add Lily James to the mix, who’s been a brilliant ray of sunshine in every film I’ve seen her in, not to mention the entire music catalog of The Beatles, and this film seemed like the makings of a great time at the movies.

However, even though the soundtrack here is as great as you’d expect, and Lily James is as charming as ever, the overall storytelling of this film is shockingly lazy.

The whole “rising star” narrative felt so generic here.

Sure, there’s a bit of a twist. Instead of showing a musician’s struggle to create new songs from scratch, Jack is struggling to remember all the lyrics to The Beatles’s enormous library of music.

Beyond that though, everything about the movie feels so low effort.

After years of toiling, Jack finally finds success as a musician. He gets discovered by someone in the music business, in this case it’s Ed Sheeran playing Ed Sheeran, and from there it’s one giant career move after the next.

Jack is saddled with a new agent, played by Kate McKinnon, who couldn’t have been more shallow of a character if she tried. She’s just a greedy one-note character created only for Jack to overcome in the end.

As all this is happening, Jack’s former music manager Ellie, who’s apparently loved Jack her whole life but has never told him, decides to confess her infatuation.

But then after Jack finally decides to make a move, Ellie changes her mind and says she can’t be with Jack because he’s famous now. Forcing him to choose between a successful career and her.

I guess Ellie, who had been helping Jack for years, booking gigs and finding events for him to perform at, never thought Jack might actually make it big.

The whole thing was ridiculously frustrating to watch.

It’s not like the fame gets to Jack’s head making him a jerk and in the process pushing Ellie away. That would at least make some sense. No, she just decides she can’t be with him because he’s finally flourishing as a musician.

Beyond the annoying narrative, the comedy here is just flat out lazy. There’s no cleverness. It’s like the writer decided to go with whatever would be the easiest punchline or the most surface level Beatles related gag with zero thought put behind it.

And to top it all off, the way this movie was filmed was downright aggravating.

The cinematopher here obviously loves ‘Dutch angles,’ the act of tilting the camera on an angle, but doesn’t understand at all how to use them properly.

Dutch angles have a very specific usage in film. They’re meant to invoke a feeling of unease. It’s a way of letting the audience know something is off about the scene they’re watching.

They’re usually used when showing a villain, when a hero is in danger, or maybe an evil ritual of some sort.

Here, the filmmakers just use Dutch angles willy-nilly with zero rhyme or reason whatsoever. Random Dutch angles for no reason. I know this might sound like a nit-pick to some, but to me it was absolutely jarring.

However, despite my numerous frustrations with this movie, I imagine it’ll still please general audiences for the most part.

Good performances, effective emotional moments, and a great soundtrack manage to carry an otherwise horribly written, horribly shot movie.

This might be the most disappointing movie of the year for me, at least so far. I really wish I could have loved this film. I wanted so badly to. But terrible storytelling made that absolutely impossible.

“Yesterday” is rated PG-13

***

Annabelle Comes Home

The other movie this week is “Annabelle Comes Home.”

Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) bring the possessed doll to the locked artifacts room in their home, placing her “safely” behind sacred glass and enlisting a priest’s holy blessing.

But an unholy night of horror awaits as Annabelle awakens the evil spirits in the room, who all set their sights on a new target, the Warrens’ ten-year-old daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace) and her friends Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) and Daniela (Katie Sarife).

I have to say, as someone who’s generally a fan of movies in the Conjuring Universe, the recent additions to the series have left more than a little to be desired.

While I didn’t dislike “The Nun” as much as some people, it certainly had its fair share of flaws and was definitely a little too by the book as far as Conjuring horror movies go. 

On the other hand, I was completely miserable while watching “The Curse of La Llorona.” It felt like the most generic film in the series, lacking any of the charm that consistently make movies in Conjuring Universe fun to watch.

Luckily the Conjuring franchise always has Annabelle to fall back to when things start getting rough.

While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first “Annabelle,” released in 2014, I enjoyed its prequel “Annabelle: Creation” pretty well. Mostly due to a very likeable cast of characters.

Looking back at the Conjuring Universe, that seems to be the franchise’s strongest asset. With the exception of La Llorona, the characters in all their films are really easy to empathize with. Even the ones who make stupid decisions are sympathetic.

Turns out if you make the audience care about the characters in your movie, you actually create some tension when you throw those same people in mortal danger. Go figure.

And this movie is another example of the Conjuring Universe doing what it does best.

I loved the characters in this movie.

Of course it’s nice to see Ed and Lorraine back, though they don’t really have a major role in the film. The real stars here are the three girls, Judy, Daniela, and Mary Ellen.

Mckenna Grace just might be one of the best child actresses in the business right now. I absolutely adored her in “Gifted” back in 2017, but she’s also done well with minor roles in “Captain Marvel” and especially “I, Tonya.”

No surprise, she nails the role of the Warren’s daughter in this film.

For someone who’s only 13-years-old, she has some real skill in selling a performance. There’s a reason they keep throwing her at every role they can. She’s a really talented actress.

And the other two older girls do a good job in their own right as well.

Mary Ellen is basically your typical straightlaced goody-two-shoes, who’s tasked with babysitting the Warren’s daughter while they’re away. She’s probably the least memorable of the three, but she’s still a likeable character all the same.

Surprisingly, the most sympathetic character of the lot ended up being the one that seemed the stupidest at first. Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela, played by Katie Sarife.

She’s the one who has the bright idea to go snooping around the Warren’s room of cursed artifacts, and is ultimately responsible for releasing Annabelle, but the writers gave her character an understandable justification for trespassing.

Despite Daniela’s foolish actions, she ends up being the most sympathetic character in the entire film. A surprising, yet welcomed departure from typical horror movies.

I also just have to mention the only major male character here that isn’t a Warren, Bob, played by Michael Cimino.

He’s mostly just around for awkward comedy due to his crush on Mary Ellen, but his character adds some much needed levity to an otherwise tense film. He had me cracking up just about every time he was on screen.

The story here goes about how you’d expect if you’ve seen any Conjuring movies.

An evil gets unleashed, scary things start appearing in mirrors or just out of the corner of our main character’s eyes. Then you get the random jump scares, and in the end our evil whosit or whatsit begins throwing people around like they’re sacks of potatoes.

And though the tension building and scares are mostly effective here, what makes “Annabelle Comes Home” different from its predecessors is there isn’t just one or two malevolent forces lurking about this time around.

Thanks to Annabelle being a spirit lighthouse of sorts, we get a whole assortment of various ghouls, haunted objects, and beasties terrifying our poor main characters.

Even if you’re sick of creepy dolls at this point, this movie has such a fun variety in scares over previous Annabelle movies.

I absolutely loved all the variation. It certainly helped keep the film feeling fresh. There simply isn’t time to get tired of any one specter.

All in all, this is a really fun return to form for the Conjuring universe.

The overall stakes of the movie are decidedly low, and it might not please those looking for something more deeply unsettling, but “ Annabelle Comes Home” is a really fun popcorn horror flick with decent scares, above average performances, and really likeable characters.

Precisely everything you’d want in summer horror flick, making this an easy film to recommend to anyone looking for a good scare at the theater.

“Annabelle Comes Home” is rated R.

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